Medal honors Hartsville hero
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
A Hartsville man who sacrificed his life to help save a drowning Florence boy in 2020 has been awarded a Carnegie Medal – “North America’s highest civilian honor for heroism.”
Carl J. “CJ” Robinette II, a 48-year-old Internet sales and marketing manager, drowned while helping rescue the boy April 26, 2020, at Lake Robinson in McBee, said Jewels Phraner, a spokeswoman for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. He is one of 18 people being recognized this quarter by the Pittsburgh-based group.
According to information released last week by Phraner’s group, Robinette and the boy, then 13, were on a boat outing when the youth and others left the boat and waded to a sandbar. The boat drifted away, the youth panicked, and started swimming for the boat.
He got into water about 8 feet deep and “struggled” to stay afloat, the Hero Fund Commission said. Robinette dove into the water and swam out to the youth. Robinette held the youth so his head remained above water, while trying to get back to the sandbar, the group said.
Another man, grasping a life jacket, swam out, helped the youth hang onto the life jacket and helped him back to the boat. “By then, Robinette had submerged,” the group said. S.C. Department of Natural Resources divers found Robinette’s body the next day.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission manages a $5 million fund to recognize people “in peaceful vocations” who act to “preserve or rescue their fellows.” Honorees are people “who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving, or attempting to save, the lives of others,” Phraner said.
The medals given out by the group include a quotation from the Bible: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Robinette, a native of West Virginia, worked at a number of hospitals as a respiratory therapist before starting a career in sales and management, according to his 2020 obituary.
A job opportunity brought him to Hartsville several years ago, said his son Dallon Robinette, 22, who lives in Austin, Texas. At the time of his father’s death, the younger Robinette was living in Arizona.
“I think it’s an incredible thing,” Robinette said of the medal. “It’s really great for him to be honored this way. It’s very cool for my family. We’re very proud of him. We’ve always been proud of him.”
Robinette said word of his father’s death was a shock, but he said it wasn’t at all surprising that he died trying to help someone in danger. That was completely “in character,” Robinette said. “That didn’t surprise me. He was selfless to a fault.”
“I miss my dad more and more every day,” he said. “ … (But) my pride far outweighs my grief. … He had lived a pretty adventurous life. He had done most of the things on his ‘bucket list.’”