East Hawaii News

Big Island Man Awarded Carnegie Medal

September 25, 2015, 2:36 PM HST
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A Big Island man was one of 22 individuals who were recently awarded with the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s Carnegie Medal.

The medal is awarded to individuals who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving, or attempting to save, the lives of others.

Brian Wargo, a Kailua-Kona resident, received the award for his efforts in rescuing McKenzie N. Clark from an incident involving a shark in Kapa’au on Oct. 31, 2014.

Clark was surfing in an area about 450 feet off shore when a 12-foot Tiger shark bit her left hand and surf board. She was able to free her hand, falling off the board, but the shark held its grip on the surf board and towed Clark a short distance in the water since she was attached to the board by her ankle.

Wargo was surfing nearby when he saw what happened. He paddled towards Clark and as he neared the shark, swam alongside him. He shouted, telling Clark to get back on her board, and grabbed the shark’s fins with both of his hands to stop it from nearing Clark again. He then pulled off his board, which ended up between him and the shark, and repeatedly kicked and punched it until it turned and swam away.


Once the shark was gone, Clark and Wargo returned to shore on their board. Clark received hospital treatment, including stitches.


According to Commission Chair Mark Laskow, each of the 22 recipients also received a financial grant.

In addition to Wargo, Kory Kern Kocher of Maui also received the medal for his efforts to save a 90-year-old woman, Isa I. Degener, from a burning in a house fire.

The recipients were part of the Fund’s third award announcement in 2015, bringing the total number awardees to 60 this year and a total of 9,797 since the fund’s beginnings in 1904.


To nominate someone for the Carnegie Medal, write to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, 436 Seventh Avenue, Suite 101, Pittsburgh, PA, 15219, or call (800) 447-8900.

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