LEWISTOWN - A grieving crowd of relatives and friends gathered at Victory Park recently to pay tribute to a 13-year-old Mattawana boy who drowned trying to save his friend's life.
The mother of Kyle D. Austin, Kelli Petrillo, was flanked by her sons grandparents, Brian and Jeannie Austin, while Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Michael Elder presented her the Carnegie Medal.
The Carnegie Medal recognizes civilian heroism in the U.S and Canada. Austin, died trying to save his friend 13-year-old Dakota A. Cutshall from drowning on July 21, 2011, in the Juniata River near McVeytown. Both drowned in a deeper portion of the river where they and two friends had been swimming that day.
Sentinel photo by KIERNAN?SCHALK
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Michael Elder presents Kelli Petrillo, the mother of Kyle D. Austin, the Carnegie Medal Wednesday for her son’s sacrifice in trying to save the life of Dakota A. Cutshall, while Austin’s grandparents, Brian and Jeannie Austin, provide support.
Elder, who was the lead investigator on the scene that day said someone forwarded a newspaper article about the incident to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, who in turn sent a team to investigate the story. The announcement that Austin would be a recipient of the medal came in June.
Austin's stepfather, Lucas Petrillo, said things have been very difficult for the families over the past year.
Petrillo said the award was a nice gesture, but he would much rather have his son and his friend back.
"I think the award is a terrific thing ... this is the only good, as far as I see in my own heart, that came out of this," he said.
Cutshall's mother, Renea Rhodes said the award was "bittersweet" but reminded her of how much Austin cared for her son, enough to sacrifice his own life in HERO an effort to save his friend.
In addition to the many friends and family who came to the ceremony, several state police troopers and emergency service personnel were also in attendance to honor Austin and Cutshall.
As the ceremony began, Austin's pastor from the Bethel AME Church in Lewistown, the Rev. Bernard Carpenter, said a prayer.
Elder said Austin performed an incredible act of "courage and bravery" as heroes do when put to the test.
Austin's mother then spoke and said she would like to thank the Carnegie Heroism Association for the beautiful award.
"We would like to thank all those who were involved in the rescue attempt and investigation on the day of July 21, 2011. The investigating officers from the state police, the volunteer firefighters and EMTs from the McVeytown Fire and Rescue company 18, Medic 29 and the doctors and nurses in the emergency room at Lewistown Hospital. We thank you for your hard work and above and beyond call of duty efforts with Dakota and Kyle. The compassion shown was more than just your jobs, it was and still is greatly held dearly in our hearts," she said.
She went on to also thank the two other boys that day for not leaving them alone during that tragic time.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends," she said, quoting Bible verse John 15:13.