Bergkamp awarded 'Carnegie Hero' medal

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A Sedgwick County seminary student who drowned while trying to save a fellow kayaker was honored Monday with a medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Brian Bergkamp of Cheney, 24, was out with friends in July 2016 when their boats moved into turbulent water on the Arkansas River in north Wichita. A summary from the commission says Bergkamp "procured a loose life jacket" from the water and tried to give it to Kristen Eck after her kayak tipped over.

While Eck lost control of the life jacket, she was able to move through the turbulence and float downstream to her friends. But Bergkamp became separated from his kayak and drowned. His body was found downstream about one month later.

A statement from the commission said Bergkamp's family will receive a financial grant, in addition to the medal. Bergkamp is one of 19 people selected for Hero Fund medals Monday, bringing the total for this year to 39.

The Associated Press noted the fund was endowed by the late steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired by stories of heroism during a coal mine disaster that killed 181 people, including a miner and an engineer, who died trying to rescue others. It has given away $39.1 million to 9,953 awardees or their families since 1904. 

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