Man who died trying to save 2 women at Little Presque Isle honored

 Courtesy: Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
Courtesy: Carnegie Hero Fund Commission (WLUC)
Published: Dec. 20, 2017 at 9:46 AM EST
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The Wisconsin man who drowned while attempting to save two women at Little Presque Isle in June 2016 has been honored posthumously with a Carnegie Medal.

The medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission honors outstanding civilian heroism. It's given throughout the United States and Canada to people who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

Justin William Schroepfer, a 24-year-old accountant from Rhinelander, saw two women struggling in Lake Superior on June 11, 2016. Kaylilyn S. Tansey and Abigail L. Sprinkle were wading between the shore and the island and got caught in the rip current.

Schroepfer waded into the water, then swam through large waves toward Tansey and Sprinkle. Once he got close to them, all three were swept into deeper water. Tansey and Schroepfer went under as Sprinkle floated into a calmer current back toward shore.

Sprinkle was treated for hypothermia and released. Divers recovered Tansey and Schroepfer about a half-mile from shore.

"We realized how wholly inadequately prepared we were as far as response equipment that we could actually deploy in that type of situation," said Marquette Township Fire Chief Ron Demarse.

In May 2017, a plaque honoring Schroepfer was installed at Little Presque Isle, and a new EMILY (EMergency Integrated life-saving LanYard) drone was installed next to it.

Schroepfer is one of 20 Carnegie Medal recipients announced Tuesday. The medal has been given to 77 people this year and 9,991 total since the fund was created in 1904.

Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt added, "When we found out we were extremely proud and happy because this young man deserved all of that."

Commission Chair Mark Laskow said each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 113 years since the Pittsburgh-based fund was established by Andrew Carnegie, $39.6 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.

To read more about Schroepfer and the other recipients, click on the link in the related links section of this page.