FRISCO, Colo. (CBS4) – A cat scan technologist who rescued a pilot from a burning helicopter is the newest recipient of the prestigious Carnegie Medal.
The award dedication ceremony for Jimmy Rhodes will take place in June of 2018.
Rhodes was working at Summit Medical Center in Frisco when the hospital’s medical evacuation helicopter crashed on the property’s back parking lot in July of 2015.
Inside the chopper, pilot Patrick Mahany had flown for Flight for Life for 27 years. Also on board were two flight nurses, including Dave Repsher. Repsher, who was severely injured in the crash, recently received at $100 million settlement from two companies.
Karen Mahany, Patrick’s widow, hopes to make flying safer through a change in federal legislation. She has been in touch with lawmakers including Sen. Cory Gardner, asking them to back her proposal on a tax credit that would lower the cost of helicopters with modern safety features related to their fuel tanks, seating and structure.
Sunday, she expressed gratitude to the man who, according to Karen, gave her family the greatest gift possible.
“I was able to be with the love of my life when he walked into heaven. And there’s no greater gift than that,” Karen told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
Rhodes did not hesitate to put his life on the line when the hospital’s chopper went down.
Hospital surveillance video caught the bold rescue on camera.
“Jimmy comes in with a handheld fire extinguisher,” Karen explained. “That’s all he had. And he went in one, two, three separate times.”
“My response was to get out there and help those guys,” Rhodes said. “I could feel the heat instantly burn my forehead. There was just a few moments when I was like ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this’ just because it was super hot – just a complete inferno.”
Suffering first and second degree burns, Rhodes pulled Mahany from the flames.
Although Mahany died a short time later from injuries sustained in the crash, Karen said Rhodes’ brave rescue prevented her husband from dying in the flames – a fiery death he had expressed as his worst fear.
The rescue also allowed him to spend his last moments comforted by his wife.
“For that I’m eternally grateful to God,” Karen said.
Karen opted not to litigate, she said, so that her voice could be heard in the legislature.
A spokesperson with Gardner’s office said Sunday that staff members were looking forward to speaking with Karen soon and that they planned to review her policy proposal.