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Overland Park man on Carnegie Heroes list for his rescues at JJ’s explosion

An explosion and 4-alarm fire at JJ's restaurant on The Country Club Plaza on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.
An explosion and 4-alarm fire at JJ's restaurant on The Country Club Plaza on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

A Kansas man who rescued two workers from a natural gas explosion at JJ’s restaurant on the Country Club Plaza last year is among 19 people being honored with medals and cash from the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Heroes Fund Commission.

Paul W. Mongiello, 57, of Overland Park, Kansas, rescued the two after JJ’s restaurant on the Country Club Plaza erupted into flames in February 2013.

The hero awards honor those who risk their lives for others. One of the other awardees Monday, Samuel Irick, 24, of Houston, was killed when he intervened during an armed purse-snatching outside a convenience store on Nov. 11, 2010. Irick’s family will receive the award in his name.

The winners are from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Carnegie Hero awards are named for Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired by stories of heroism during a coal mine disaster that killed 181 people, including a miner and an engineer who died trying to rescue others.

The commission investigates stories of heroism and awards medals and cash grants several times a year. It has given away nearly $37 million to 9,737 awardees or their families since its inception in 1904.

Carnegie Hero honorees

Winners of Carnegie Hero medals announced Monday:

▪ Frederick J. Levesque Jr., 52, of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, who rescued a 7-year-old girl from a burning apartment in Somers, Connecticut, in December 2013.

▪ Brett Allen Thoele, 36, of Shorewood, Illinois, who helped save a man from drowning in Branson, Missouri, in June 2013.

▪ Pawel L. Kruszewski, 28, of Auburn, Maine, who saved three men from a burning vehicle that crashed in September 2013.

▪ Donald Schaus Sr., 52, of Katona, New York, who saved an 82-year-old man from a burning apartment in Bedford Hills, New York, in February.

▪ Bernard Kozen, 56, of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, who saved others by subduing a gunman who killed three people at a municipal meeting in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, in August 2013.

▪ Richard Blessen, 45, of Crete, Nebraska, who saved two 14-year-old boys from drowning after they fell through ice in Duncan, Nebraska, in December 2013.

▪ Gregory D. Plancich, 58, and Daniel C. Hardwick, 53, both of Vashon, Washington; Jim O. Fultz, 48, of Siletz, Oregon; and Wayne Kitt, 35, of Loon Lake, Washington, who all helped save five members of another commercial fishing boat from drowning when it capsized near Kodiak Island, Alaska, in January 2012.

▪ Samuel Irick, 44, of Houston, Texas, who was fatally wounded rescuing a woman from an armed purse-snatching in November 2010.

▪ Clifford Faraci, 43, of Desert Hills, Arizona, who was burned trying to save a woman from a wrecked car in Phoenix, Arizona, in March 2013.

▪ Donald E. Thompson, 54, of West Hills, California, who rescued a 72-year-old man from a crashed, burning car in Los Angeles in December 2013.

Paul W. Mongiello, 57, of Overland Park, Kansas, who rescued two workers from a natural gas explosion at JJ’ restaurant in February 2013.

▪ Jonathan A. Barthel, 21, of Lake Norden, South Dakota, who helped save a man and his 9-year-old son from drowning after their canoe capsized in April.

▪ James M. Kocker, 53, of Poulsbo, Washington, who helped save a man from drowning after his car crashed into a pond in Ellensburg, Washington, in October 2012.

▪ Ronnie Lee Moore Jr., 42, of Hortense, Georgia, and John Shannon Gibson, 45, of Woodbine, Georgia, who rescued a woman from a burning car that crashed in Waverly, Georgia, in October 2013.

▪ Jeffrey A. Johnson, 48, of North Freedom, Wisconsin, who helped saved a man from drowning while ice fishing in Briggsville, Wisconsin, in April.

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