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April 19, 2013

Late firefighter named a Carnegie Hero

KALKASKA — Loren Hazen’s death still brings his mother Barb Woodhams to tears. Every day.

Hazen, a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, died July 17, 2011, as he saved his friend Andrew Killingsworth from drowning in Torch Lake. The Orange Township resident was 21.

Woodhams said the pain is still “astronomical,” but she finds solace in knowing her son lived to help people.

“I know he’d do it again in a heartbeat,” she said. “That’s what gives me my peace is that he did it his way.”

Hazen was among 22 Carnegie Hero award recipients announced Thursday. Andrew Carnegie founded the award in 1904 to recognize American and Canadian individuals who risked their lives to an extraordinary degree to save others. Twenty percent of recipients die in the act.

“They knowingly leave a place of safety and enter a place of danger,” said Doug Chambers, spokesman for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Hazen was swimming from Torch Lake’s Cedar Street Access site with three friends — Killingsworth, Chadwick Duran and Stephanie Graves — on a hot July day. Their course to a sandbar was met with alternately shallow and deep water and Killingsworth grew tired in a deep spot.

“I went under and called back for help,” he said.

Graves and Duran took turns attempting to help Killingsworth, but he was in a panic and pulled them both under water.

“I thought I was going to die,” Graves said. “When you have a panic you’ve got the strongest person in the world.”

Hazen swam back to help his friends. They remember him going underwater to hold Killingsworth above the surface.

“The image of Loren coming up for that last breath is going to be stuck in my mind for the rest of my life,” Graves said.

Killingsworth, 20, has no doubt Hazen saved his life.

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