A van crashed into a tree on Cross Bay Boulevard...

A van crashed into a tree on Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens on July 12, 2006, killing several people. Truck driver Michael Hickey saved two people from the burning van. Credit: Newsday File / Robert Mecea

Three Long Islanders are among 22 nationwide to receive bronze medals and $5,000 for going to an "extraordinary degree" to save the lives of others, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Thursday.

Since 1904 - when Pittsburgh steelmaker and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, inspired by the death of two rescuers in a coal mine explosion, started the fund - there have been 9,349 winners. The award is meant to honor those who Carnegie called the "heroes of civilization" and recipients include a Minnesota woman who died while protecting a woman from a boyfriend with a loaded handgun.

The three from Long Island are among six New York State winners. Past Long Islanders honored include Hernan L. Tobon Jr., of Massapequa, who plucked 11-month-old twins from a burning car in 1997.

Recipients are selected from more than 80,000 nominees and 20 percent of the medals are awarded posthumously.

To find potential winners, staff members scour newspaper stories about rescues and search Google daily using terms such as "hero" or "rescue," looking for people who "knowingly left a place of safety and entered a place of danger," said commission spokesman Doug Chambers.

Staff members conduct an investigation, which can take six months to a few years, Chambers said, interviewing police, witnesses, survivors and others. Medals, which are individually crafted and take about six weeks to make, are mailed to the award winners.

These are the Long Island winners' stories.

LIers and the Carnegie Hero Medal

Long Island has been home to 10 Carnegie Hero Medal winners in the last five years. They have won the prestigious award and stipend for attempting to save drowning swimmers, or pulling people from burning homes or cars. To read about what they did, go here.

They include:
Derek Merman of Lake Grove, 2009
Edward Bohan, Franklin Square, 2009
Timothy Tonkin, Smithtown, 2009
Neil Maycock, 2008
Mark Fisher, Miller Place, 2007
Matthew Shackles, Mount Sinai, 2007
Brian James Ivory, Oakdale, 2007
Christopher Kelsch, Hampton Bays, 2006
George W. Miller, Copiague, 2005
Christian Hubert, Oceanside, 2005

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