NYPD Divers Describe Dramatic Rescue
That’s how two New York Police Department divers depict their rescue Thursday of a passenger from US Airways Flight 1549 after the jetliner made an emergency landing in the icy waters of the Hudson River.
Detectives Michael Delaney and Robert Rodriguez are partners on the NYPD Harbor Scuba Team.
“As we got to the scene (in their chopper),” Rodriguez told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, ” … we saw that there was an airliner in the water. And at that point, we started to communicate to each other (using) hand signals and shouting in the helicopter to figure out what we were gonna do.”
“We usually try to come up with some sort of a game plan while we’re on the way to the scene,” Delaney explained. “When we looked out of the helicopter, we saw how big the scene was. At that point, when the helicopter started lowering down into a hover, there were a lot of other boats, ferryboats in the area, and the aviation pilots did a great job of putting us in an area where we were out of their way.
“Yet, we saw one victim … in the water that we wanted to get to right away.”
Delaney, Rodriguez noted, is the pair’s “lead diver, so he’s out first. Then I follow his lead. He had an eyeball on the victim, and he went straight for the victim. And then I exited the aircraft after that and followed him.”
The passenger, Delaney said, “was holding onto the front of a ferryboat. At that point, we saw she was in immediate distress. … We were still in the helicopter. We jumped — we deployed from the helicopter, swam to her. And she was — she was in a panic. She was glad to see us.
“I told her, ‘You’re gonna have to let go of the boat. You’re gonna have to grab on to me.’ She didn’t want to let go. She actually thought we were going to get run over by one of the ferryboats. I just told her to calm down. I asked her her name. She let go. She grabbed onto me, and I swam her over to one of the other ferryboats that had a ladder down to the water. And both me and Detective Rodriguez helped her up onto the ferryboat along with the assistance of the crew of the ferryboat.
“She was on the verge of hypothermia. She was pretty much just limp in the water holding on to me. She was of little use, being that her lower extremities were in such cold water for such is a long time. When we pulled her up, thank God there were people there from the ferryboat to help pull up. As we were pushing her up onto the boat, they were pulling her up from the deck.”
Rodriguez told Chen he and Delaney have been involved in “quite a number of rescues … but this is at a magnitude a lot larger than anything we’ve been involved with.”
How did they stay calm?
“It’s not really about being calm,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just about getting the job done. We’re so focused on the job and what we need to do that it’s not really an issue. It’s something we do.”
Both said they don’t feel like heroes.
“It’s just another jump out of the helicopter for us!” Rodriguez said.