Man awarded Carnegie Medal for saving 73-year-old woman from alligator attack

Kenneth Brian McCarter following the presentation of the Carnegie Medal. BEAUFORT COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

A man who jumped into a South Carolina lagoon and saved his 73-year-old neighbor from a 10-foot alligator in July 2020 was recently awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal. Kenneth Brian McCarter was one of only 17 Americans who received the honor in 2021.

The medal is given throughout the United States and Canada to “those who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”

Last summer McCarter and the neighbor he saved, Carol S. DeLillio, recounted the story to The Island Packet around the one-year anniversary of the incident and celebrated DeLillio’s recovery. DeLillo has undergone a number of surgeries to fix her leg since the attack but is now able to walk again.

They both recalled the early July evening in their Callawassie neighborhood when DeLillo was sprucing up her yard – something she did almost daily for two decades – after selling her home earlier in the day and was charged by the alligator that dragged her underwater.

McCarter and his four kids were driving by on a sunset golf cart ride when they heard splashing in the lagoon and McCarter dove in to save her not realizing an alligator was involved. The two fought off the alligator and McCarter’s elder son, Will, helped pull DeLillo from the water and held her hand until help arrived.

The two have both moved since, McCarter to Georgia and DeLillo to Bluffton, but have stayed in touch and reunited with an embrace during the Carnegie Medal ceremony.

McCarter said the honor was “unexpected.”

“I’m really grateful for the community and the nomination,” he said. “I’m kind of speechless.”

DeLillo said she’s thankful for McCarter and that he won the award.

Photo of the 10-foot alligator suspected to have attacked Carol S. DeLillo in a pond in Okatie, South Carolina on the evening of July 3, 2020.

“It makes you realize how wonderful and special he is,” DeLillo said.

McCarter was nominated by Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner, who presented him with the medal in a recent ceremony attended by friends, family, and many Callawassie neighbors.

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

Alligator attacks are rare but they do happen in South Carolina.

Last year, a woman who was attacked by an alligator on Hilton Head Island was rescued by a neighbor who hit the animal with a shovel.

In 2020, an alligator attacked and killed a woman on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Prior to that, a 45-year-old woman walking her dog was fatally attacked on Hilton Head Island in August 2018 and a 90-year-old woman walked out of a Charleston nursing home in 2016 and was killed by a gator.

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