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Land surveyor to receive Carnegie Medal for rescuing woman from burning home

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 10:05 a.m. HST, Dec 19, 2012

The 55-year-old surveyor credited with saving the life of an elderly woman in a wheelchair by pulling her out of a burning Wilhelmina Rise home last year was named today as one of 18 individuals who will receive the Carnegie Medal.

Carl Loando, while working on a surveying team for ControlPoint Surveying on April 27, 2011, pulled Helen Choy, 85, from her home at 3953 Koko Drive, which had caught fire from a power strip on the back enclosed lanai.

Last year Loando was awarded the Honolulu Fire Department’s Civilian Medal of Valor. He was also honored by the Hawaii State Chapter of the American Red Cross.

His partner, Christopher Neuman, also was recognized with a certificate from the fire department.

The Carnegie commission also awarded Loando a $5,000 grant.

Loando said he still keeps in contact with Choy and her husband, Kenneth. “They are still in good spirits.”

“I am honored and thrilled to have been nominated,” said Loando who was informed by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission on Tuesday that he had been chosen to receive the medal. “It’s pretty prestigious.”

Loando said he doesn’t know who nominated him for the medal established by financier Andrew Carnegie in 1904 “to recognize outstanding acts of selfless heroism performed in the United States and Canada. The commission said to date 9,576 medals have been awarded since the Pittsburgh-based fund's inception. Loando said he was interviewed several times over the past year by Carnegie commission members and had to submit names of witnesses.

Walter Rutkowski, the commission’s executive director, said it was news stories printed on Oct. 11, 2011 and Nov. 22, 2011 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that brought Loando’s exploits to the attention of the commission. 

Loando said he still carries memories of what occurred more than a year ago, but the incident “has brought me closer to my family and the Choys.”

“The couple has an amazing history,” Loando said, noting that Kenneth Choy was a captain with Aloha Airlines and Helen Choy for several decades served as a student adviser at the University of Hawaii.”

Last year Loando and his team of surveyors were on their way to a boundary survey when they noticed thick smoke and fire coming from the one-story structure.

Loando said he saw Kenneth Choy in the carport looking into the home. Choy said he tried to get his wife into her wheelchair but was unsuccessful and told Loando she was still in the hall. Loando entered the home, crawling 20 feet through smoke and darkness.

Eventually Loando found Helen Choy, grabbed her underneath her arms, dragged her to the door and down the wheelchair ramp. Loando said he was hampered in his efforts to move the woman because she was still tethered to an oxygen tank.

Loando and Neuman broke the oxygen tubing and carried the woman to the edge of the carport.

Flames quickly engulfed the house as well as a car parked in the carport.

Both Loando and Choy required hospitalization for smoke inhalation.

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