Georgia man who tried to save elderly woman stuck on train tracks honored with Carnegie Hero Medal

Christopher Burkett (Carnegie Hero Commission)

A Georgia man is being honored with North America's highest honor for civilian heroism for his ultimate sacrifice to try and save the life of a stranger.

On Nov. 10, 2021, 47-year-old Christopher K. Burkett was working with a friend on a fence at his Forsyth home when they overheard a car nearby kicking up gravel.

Inside that car were 93-year-old Shirley Treadwell and her caretaker, who were stuck on a train track with a train quickly approaching.

Both men ran to the car's door and forced them open. 

Due to the curve in the track, the freight train could only be seen when it was 300 feet from the car. The 170-car train was going at nearly 40 miles per hour.

While Burkett's friend jumped back from the track, he stayed to try to rescue the elderly woman. The train hit the vehicle, sending it flying 100 feet. Neither Burkett nor Treadwell survived.

For his act of heroism and sacrifice, Burkett is one of the 15 Americans honored by the Carnegie Hero Fund, which has been given out since 1904 to Americans and Canadians who put themselves in extreme danger to save the lives of others.

Burkett will posthumously receive the Carnegie Medal, which the organizers say is the highest honor for civilian heroism in North America.

Also receiving the honor this year will be four passersby who entered burning homes to people inside, a man who became paralyzed from below the waist while attempting to save a store clerk from an armed assailant, and a father who drowned saving his child.

In total, over 10,000 people have received the medal in the century since it's been given out.

Burkett's surviving family will receive a financial grant for his act of heroism.