[Share]Published: November 14, 2012
Stories from Hurricane Sandy: Paramedics William Bedoya and Justin Miro
An FDNY ambulance and a longboard
FDNY Paramedics William Bedoya and Justin Miro from Station 58 have responded to hundreds of calls over the years, but the night Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, they responded to one emergency they will never forget.
At the height of the storm, the paramedics were on West 8th Street in Coney Island, trying to find a street clear of debris, downed power lines and flooding where they could turn.
Avenue X looked safe, as there was only about two feet of flooding, so they started making their way down the street when when a man in rain gear ran toward the ambulance. Paramedic Bedoya rolled down his window and the man in his 30s, who knew little English, said his sister was trapped in her apartment.
“We knew we had to act,” Paramedic Miro said. “We couldn’t leave them or have him try to go in by himself.”
They followed the man toward a door at the end of a driveway. The wind was blowing the seawater so strongly it was leaving salt deposits on their skin, and the frigid floodwaters – what they believed to be a mix of ocean water and sewage – was getting deeper as they moved down the driveway.
Suddenly, the paramedics said the walkway dropped and they were chest deep in water.
“At that point I was not only concerned for the victims, but also my partner and me,” said Paramedic Bedoya, noting that everyone was at risk for hypothermia.
The power was out on the street, so it was hard to see, but they said they could make out about the top third of the door. There were glass tiles at the top and they could see the top of the frantic woman’s head and hand behind it.
Paramedic Miro immediately thought to grab a longboard from the ambulance – a 6-foot-long plastic board on which they transport patients – because it would float.
The pressure of the water was forcing the woman’s apartment door closed, so paramedics used the board as a wedge to keep the door open enough so the man could get close to his sister. She then jumped on his back and the paramedics used the board to keep them steady as they pulled them to safety.
“It was good to know we were able to do the right thing with the resources we had,” Paramedic Miro said.
As Paramedic Miro helped the victims to the ambulance, Paramedic Bedoya stayed back to see if anyone else in the building, who had gathered to watch the commotion, would leave. One man living in a neighboring basement apartment agreed to go. The middle-aged man had a cane and was wearing shorts in the chest-deep water. Paramedic Bedoya tried to grab the man’s hand, wanting to make sure that he and the man were not swept away by the racing floodwaters.
After they caught hands and he pulled the man to the safety and moved him to the shelter of the ambulance. The man told them he did not know where to go – his apartment was flooded and he had no friends, family or money for a place to stay. The paramedics stayed with him and took him to the hospital for shelter.
The two other victims, who had no visible injury, refused medical attention.
“In hindsight, I’m convinced that if he hadn’t flagged us down, and we hadn’t gone with him to the apartment, people would have died,” Paramedic Bedoya said. But both paraemdics refused to be called heroes for their actions:
“If it was our family members in that situation, I would hope someone else would do the same thing. Just knowing these people didn’t die because of what we did is an award in itself.”