Corrections officer nominated for medal

A Middlesex County corrections officer who pulled a man from a burning car has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal.

Sgt. Joseph DeMatteo of Jackson has been lauded for his immediate reaction to a potentially fatal automobile accident in North Brunswick in July 2003.

Representatives of the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission contacted DeMatteo after having read a newspaper story detailing his actions.

DeMatteo, who was off-duty at the time, witnessed a two-car accident in which both cars overturned and one of the cars caught fire. One person was trapped inside each vehicle. DeMatteo helped pull out the victim trapped inside the burning car and helped care for the second victim until rescue workers could extricate him.

"We are so proud to call Sgt. DeMatteo friend and colleague," said Middlesex County Freeholder Christopher D. Rafano, chairman of the county’s Law and Public Safety Committee. "Putting yourself in harm’s way to save someone else’s life is the most selfless thing you could do. I thank him and know our residents are safer because of his actions."

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards Carnegie Medals five times a year. Bronze medals and $3,500 grants are given to private citizens throughout the United States and Canada who "risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others," according to the committee’s Internet Web site.

The fund was established in 1904 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to honor those who Carnegie called the "heroes of civilization," whose lifesaving actions put them in stark contrast to the "heroes of barbarism, [who] maimed or killed" their fellow man, the Web site states.

In May, DeMatteo and Middlesex County Corrections Officer Christopher Wilson of Jamesburg received Medals of Valor from Corrections USA, an advocacy organization for corrections officers nationwide. The group awarded DeMatteo its 2003 Life Saving Medal of Valor for his response to the accident. It awarded Wilson its 2003 Gold Medal of Valor for stopping an inmate’s attack on a fellow officer.