LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Off-duty State Department of Corrections officer Chad Ammerman received a prestigious award for saving the life of an elderly boater in distress.
On June 21, 2021, a sailboat capsized in the waters off Little Egg. John L. McKenna, 82, was riding in it but was unable to get back in.
Fortunately, Ammerman was in the area and heard his cries for help. He called 911. Then, he grabbed an empty plastic cooler to use as a flotation device and jumped into the water. Bystanders helped guide him in the right direction from the shore. He swam about 300 yards to get to the man. When he reached him, he told McKenna to grab one handle of the cooler and he backstroked toward a bulkhead. A firefighter in a boat swung toward them and helped him onto shore and to the waiting paramedics.
Ammerman, 41, received the Carnegie Medal, given to people who put their lives in danger to save the lives of others. Established by Andrew Carnegie in 1904, the award comes with a financial grant and is designed to recognize and support those who perform acts of heroism while in civilian life in the U.S. and Canada.
Ammerman is a Senior Correctional Police Officer working at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, according to the State Department of Corrections.
Unsurprisingly, Ammerman said he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“I’m just grateful I could be in the right place at the right time that day to help,” he said. “I appreciate the Carnegie Hero Fund for recognizing me in this way.”
His superiors had more to say about him.
“Senior Officer Ammerman represents the best of NJDOC,” said Commissioner Victoria L. Kuhn. “When we say we are ‘NJDOC Strong,’ this is what we mean – a willingness to put others before self, to risk one’s own safety to save another. We’re proud the Carnegie Hero Fund has recognized his remarkable actions this way.”
William Sullivan, president of NJPBA 105, which represents correctional police officers, said “Our training and careers in the NJDOC extend well beyond our tour at our facilities. We appreciate his actions and heroism in saving this gentleman. Our officers are the best in the nation and times like this show just that.”
According to the Carnegie Hero Foundation, more than 10,000 people have been given the award, 20% of them posthumously.
“We live in a heroic age,” Andrew Carnegie wrote in the opening lines of the Commission’s founding Deed of Trust in 1904. “Not seldom are we thrilled by deeds of heroism where men or women are injured or lose their lives in attempting to preserve or rescue their fellows.”
To nominate someone for the Carnegie Medal, complete a nomination form online or write to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, 436 Seventh Ave., Suite 1101, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. More information can be found at carnegiehero.org.