By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A Rocky Boy police officer who drowned last year while attempting to rescue a man clinging to a capsized boat has received a prestigious award in recognition of his heroism.
Robert James Taylor, a six-year veteran of the Rocky Boy Police Department, was posthumously honored Thursday by the Carnegie Hero Fund on in Pittsburgh. The award is given to people in the United States and Canada who demonstrate outstanding heroism.
The awards are given only to those the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission believes risked their lives to an extraordinary degree in attempting to save the life of another.
Taylor drowned on the evening of May 28, 2002, in Bonneau Reservoir on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. He disappeared under the surface while trying to swim 75 yards in 45-degree water to rescue fisherman Ira Moreno.
Moreno, 28, was later rescued by a relative who threw him a tire tied to a nylon rope. His companion, Junior Norquay, swam to shore. The pair were treated for hypothermia.
Search-and-rescue crews combed the reservoir for seven hours that night, looking for Taylor's body. It was not until 11 a.m. May 29 that it was recovered.
"He performed a heroic act, and lost his life in the process," said Carnegie Hero Fund manager Doug Chambers. "It was an awfully brave and noble thing to do."
Rocky Boy Police Chief Arthur "Ozzie" Windy Boy said today that Taylor exemplified dedication and sacrifice.
"He was a good officer," Windy Boy said. "He was always helpful and dependable. It was very courageous of him to attempt the rescue. You have to be brave in this line of work."
Windy Boy, along with other tribal officials, traveled to Washington, D.C., in May to attend an annual ceremony that honors law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Taylor was among those honored.
Taylor was one of 17 people to receive the Carnegie Hero Fund award last week and one of three to be honored posthumously. The awards, which are given out five times a year, consist of bronze medals engraved with the person's name as well as a $3,500 grant for the honorees or their survivors.
Taylor's wife, Sandra Stump of Rocky Boy, will receive the award, Chambers said.
Stump said today she found out about the award when the commission sent her a letter.
"They wrote me letter and said that he had received the award," she said. "I was excited, because it's a big honor. They sent me a certificate that is hanging up at home. It was a great feeling to know that he was being recognized."
Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie started the hero fund in 1904 after being inspired by rescue stories from a mine disaster that killed 181 people.
On-duty emergency workers and police are not honored unless their actions demonstrate extraordinary heroism.
"Police and firemen are not typically selected, unless they go above and beyond the call of duty," Chambers said. "Taylor obviously did that. We felt that his actions certainly warranted the award."
Chambers said the commission became interested in nominating Taylor after reading a newspaper article about the drowning.
About $26.7 million has been issued in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance over the 99-year history of the fund.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.