Mark R. Leppo didn't think twice about jumping into the storm-swollen waters of Bynum Run to save an Aberdeen woman trapped in a car being swept away by the flooded stream.
Fearing emergency crews would not make it in time to save the woman, Leppo says he made a split-second decision in August of last year to rescue the woman.
In a heavy storm, her car had been swept off the bridge along a private road off MacPhail Road, east of Bel Air.
"I knew I had to do it, so I didn't worry about it," the 30-year-old Leppo says. "I wasglad to be in the right place at the right time. I was glad to help.It's a nice feeling."
Leppo, a Bel Air postal carrier for seven years, was honored for his actions last week when he was named one of 14 recipients of the prestigious Carnegie Medal.
The medal is awarded by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission of Pittsburgh, Pa., to Americans and Canadians who risk their lives to save other people.
In addition to the medal, Leppo and the other award winners received a $2,500 grant from the commission. The commission has issued the award to 7,575 people since 1904.
"All the actions were done at the extraordinary risk of the rescuer," said Walter F. Rutkowski, spokesman for the commission.
Leppo and his wife, Michelle, live on Stuart Terrace in Bel Air. In addition to working as a postal carrier, Leppo isa music instructor at Harford Community College.
Leppo gave the following account of the Aug. 22, 1990, accident:
While delivering mail, Leppo, spotted a car crossing a flooded bridge over Bynum Run be swept into the water and taken several hundred feet downstream. Inside was Walburga Rockocy, 65, of Aberdeen.
Leppo ran toward the stream, but the water was flowing too quickly and he couldn't reach thecar.
He stopped a passing motorist and asked her to call 911. He then drove his postal vehicle along the stream to where Rockocy's carhad settled, partially submerged near an opposite bank.
Leppo, who describes himself as a good swimmer, jumped into the swollen creek and swam toward Rockocy's car. But the water carried him about 50 feet beyond the vehicle.
After reaching the bank, Leppo waded back tothe car. He was able to reach inside to unlock the driver's door, open it and release Rockocy's safety belt.
Leppo helped the woman out of the car and brought her up onto the bank of the stream. He then went back to the car to get Rockocy's shoes.
Neither Rockocy nor Leppo needed medical treatment.
Following the rescue, it was back to business as usual for Leppo.
Recalls Leppo, "I changed and continued delivering the mail."