Firefighters Save Man in East River
Firefighter Ronny Corsale (inset) and Ladder 16.
Published: July 05, 2012
With experience and training on their side, firefighters from Ladder 16 saved the life of a man in the East River on July 5.
“It feels good,” Firefighter Ronny Corsale said. “It always happens when you don’t expect it … but it makes you feel like you have a purpose. We train for days like today.”
Firefighters received the call for a man in the water at 73rd Street and the FDR Drive. When firefighters arrived, Tac 1 on Roosevelt Island was standing by with binoculars, keeping an eye on the location of the victim.
When Ladder 16 arrived, Tac 1 guided them to the location of the victim, who was hanging onto vines along the seawall. The current was strong, and Firefighter Corsale said, “He was fighting to stay alive.”
Firefighter Corsale donned a life vest and other firefighters put on water rescue suits as they started moving toward the victim.
It was difficult to reach him, and after jumping a fence, Firefighter Corsale thought he was too far away to help the victim. But, as he kept moving toward the seawall, he realized he was closer to him than the other firefighters, so he ran around another fence to reach the man, who in his 50s.
The victim was fighting the current and water was hitting him in the face.
Firefighter Corsale said he was going to wait for the firefighters in the water rescue suits to come around, but “there was no time, I saw him losing his strength.”
The firefighter jumped into the river and grabbed the man, asking him to hold on. The pair started drifting two to three blocks as firefighters from Engine 39 and Rescue 1 tried to get ladders in the water so they could climb out.
The current was so strong, though, that the firefighters had trouble keeping the ladders in place and Firefighter Corsale said at one point he and the victim “were completely parallel with the water.”
After tying the victim off with a rope, Tac 1 arrived with their boat and put it diagonal to the seawall, essentially boxing in Firefighter Corsale so he and the other firefighters could remove the victim to an awaiting ambulance.
He was transported to New York Hospital.
Firefighter Corsale said the rescue was a success because he was able to rely on experience (he rescued another victim from the East River nearly three years ago) and training (he and the other members of Ladder 16 completed water rescue training just one week prior).
“All of us felt more comfortable because of the training,” Firefighter Corsale said. “Everything went smoothly and it was well organized.”