South Carolina Man Awarded Carnegie Medal For Saving 73-Year-Old From Alligator

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

A man was awarded the Carnegie Medal after he heroically jumped into a South Carolina lagoon and saved a 73-year-old woman from an alligator.

The Medal is given to people in North America “who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.” And the recipient, Kenneth Brian McCarter, was one of just 17 Americans who received it in 2021.

The attack took place in July of 2020. The victim, Carol S. DeLillo, told the story to The Island Packet while celebrating the one-year anniversary of her recovery.

As DeLillo recalled, she was doing yard work at her home, just as she did every night, when a 10-foot alligator dragged her into the water. And at the same time, McCarter, who lived next door, was driving a golf cart by the lagoon with his family.

When McCarter heard splashing, he jumped into the water. At the time, he wasn’t aware that Delillo was trapped by an alligator. But once he saw the predator, he didn’t back off. Instead, he and his neighbor fought the animal until McCarter’s son Will was able to pull them from the water.

After the incident, Delillo was bound to a wheelchair. But doctors performed several surgeries to fix her leg over the course of a year. And now, she’s able to walk again.

The Victim of the Alligator Attack Reunited with Man Who Saved her at Award Ceremony

The McCarters and Ms. Delillo have since moved away from the waterside neighborhood. But they stay in touch, despite their new distance. And when Kenneth McCarter received his medal, Delillo was standing in the crowd waiting to thank her hero once more.

“It makes you realize how wonderful and special he is,” she said of her savior.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner nominated McCarter for the prestigious award. And he was also the person lucky enough to present the medal at a ceremony with McCarter’s friends and family in attendance.

“We think of first responders and our military as heroes,” he said at the event. “But in this particular case, here on Callawassie, we were able to identify a civilian who was a hero.”

McCarter was shocked by the “unexpected award,” and thanked the “community and the nomination.”

“I’m kind of speechless,” he added.

Alligator attacks in South Carolina are rare. But they have made headlines several times in recent years. In 2021, an alligator attacked a woman on Hilton Head Island. And a neighbor was able to rescue her by hitting the creature over the head with a shovel. And since 2018, the animals killed three other people.