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Carnegie Medal: Denver man credited with saving 80-year-old who slipped, was knocked out in Gore Creek

Gore Creek near Vail on Jun 10, 2023
Posted at 3:04 PM, Dec 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-19 17:16:05-05

A Denver man has been awarded the Carnegie Medal after he saved the life of an 80-year-old man who fell in the Gore Creek, hit his head and was knocked unconscious this summer.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards the Carnegie Medal to individuals who save or attempt to save the lives of others, while also putting themselves at risk of serious injury or death. The medal is considered North America's highest civilian honor for heroism.

One of the medals this year was presented to John Chase, a 53-year-old attorney from Denver. On the afternoon of July 17, he was enjoying a bike ride with his wife along the Gore Creek in Vail. Around the same time, Joseph Radtke, 80, went fishing with his dog nearby. He tried to cross a shallow point of the creek, which was about 56 degrees, when his dog pulled away from him, causing him to fall. The current swept him and he was carried downstream into rapids headfirst with his face down, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission said.

Radtke was knocked unconscious after hitting several rocks.

Chase spotted Radtke in the water, so he pedaled ahead of the man, slid down a steep embankment and waded to a rock in the middle of the creek.

As Radtke approached him, Chase jumped into the water and grabbed the man's arm while paddling with the other.

Both men were swept about 225 feet downstream until Chase gained a foothold in calmer, shallow water. With the help of a bystander, he moved Radtke to shore and performed CPR on him until first responders arrived.

Radtke was revived at the scene and transported to a hospital, where he stayed for six days. He made a full recovery.

Chase was also OK, aside from some bruising.

In total, 18 people, including Chase, across the United States and Canada were recently recognized for acts of extraordinary heroism where they risked serious injury or death to save others. This marked the fourth and final award announcement for 2023. Since the inception of the fund, the Carnegie Medal has been awarded to 10,405 people.

Want to nominate somebody for the Carnegie Medal? Complete a nomination form here or write to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission at:

436 Seventh Ave., Suite 1101
Pittsburgh, PA

Below are some other recent Carnegie Medal recipients from Colorado:

  • Mickey Wilson — On Jan. 4, 2017, a man riding a chairlift at Arapahoe Basin tried to dismount and his backpack became tangled in the chair. The lift continued, turning to head back downhill with the man still stuck. Before the lift was stopped, the backpack's chest strap had started to choke him and he lost consciousness. He was about 10 feet above the ground. Wilson was able to climb the tower ladder and make his way along the steel cable to the chair. A ski patroller tossed a pocket knife to him and he freed the man, who fell to waiting first responders below. He was released from the hospital the following day. More here.
    Golden man honored with Carnegie Hero award after saving skier's life at Arapahoe Basin in 2017
  • Kenneth R. Atkinson — On April 4, 2016, Atkinson died rescuing a 44-year-old woman from an assault in Centennial. She had been shot by her husband as she fled from her home. Atkinson, who lived next door, left his home to tend to the injured woman. He was fatally shot by the assailant. The woman survived and her husband was arrested. More here.
  • Ross A. Johnson — On March 7, 2015, Johnson rescued a 65-year-old woman from an assault in Colorado Springs. The woman's estranged husband had punched her in the face and stabbed her. Johnson shouted at him to stop, which the man did and then left the vehicle. As the woman tried to leave the car, the man returned and stabbed her multiple times before Johnson could intervene. He kept the man away until police arrived. The suspect was arrested and the woman was hospitalized.
  • Richard Thomas Krochta — On Aug. 29, 2018, Krochta saved two people from a burning vehicle in Woodland Park. He saw the car crash into a tree and catch on fire in a rural area. He alerted authorities and then used a fire extinguisher to try to suppress the flames. He was able to help the two people trapped inside out of the car and carried both a safe distance from the car. Both of them survived.
  • Robert Hart Morgan and Connor William Quick — On Nov. 28, 2015, Morgan and Quick, both 18, saw a car go into Lake Loveland. Even though it was 19 degrees outside and the water was close to freezing, Morgan entered the lake, swam to the side of the car, and broke the door's window with his elbow. The driver grabbed him and he helped her to shallow water. She yelled another name and thinking somebody else was in the car, Quick jumped into the water and swam to the vehicle to check. The car was empty. The trio were treated for cold water exposure.
  • Jason C. Newby — On April 3, 2015, Newby, of Eaton, saw a crash on an interstate in Oklahoma. A 62-year-old man in a tractor trailer had crashed into a disabled tractor trailer. The front of the man's rig was badly damaged and flames were spreading. Newby and another man grabbed fire extinguishers and ran back to the fire. When they were about 15 feet away, the truck's cargo tank, which contained residual gasoline and fumes, exploded, throwing the two men 20 feet away. The man inside the truck died. Newby was severely injured but survived.
  • J. Ryan Thornton — On Sept. 5, 2018, Thornton police officer Thornton, then-41, responded to the scene of a mobile home fire. The flames started in a bed and a 61-year-old resident, who was physically disabled, was unable to flee. Thornton kicked open the front door, crawled 15 feet to the bed, lifted the woman and carried her out of the room. He tripped at one point, but continued to drag the woman to the front door, where first responders were waiting. The woman had a severe burn and Thornton was hospitalized for two days.

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