June 17, 2005Chopper Down in the East River!Chas
June 17, 2005 HRFA member Joe
Curvino and I were fishing the East River for striped bass and bluefish.We left the marina in the EnglewoodBoatBasin
around and proceeded to head down the Harlem River to fish near the UN Building.I guess we were fishing for almost an hour when I
heard a loud whoosh!
I looked up to see a
helicopter about 300 yards in front of us hit the water.The main rotor was still rotating and as the chopper turned on its side, the
rotors came apart with a Wap, Wap, Wap against the surface of the water.
realized immediately what had happened and shouted to Joe, Helicopter Crash! We
gotta go!I got on the radio immediately
and called in a MAYDAY on Channel 22 and 16 that we had a Helicopter Crash in the East
River by the UN Building. This is the Half Moon and we are rendering
Joe went into our
cabin and brought out every life jacket and cushion we own.
As we got closer to the wreckage we could see some of the passengers
coming to the surface from the now fully submerged, upside down fuselage of the stricken
The craft was in
several sections with 4 survivors holding on to the inverted fuselage and 3 more holding
on to the separate tail section.7 survivors
in the water in total. Both sections of the stricken craft were sinking quickly and moving
along with the victims in the drink from south to north in a 5 knot current. We were maybe
50 yards away from the seawall.
I maneuvered our
boat as close to the people in the water as I could so Joe could start throwing our life
jackets to them.All 7 life jackets went out
to the victims which they quickly put on.Joes
last toss was a floating seat cushion with a rope attached to it.
With that seat cushion, we managed to pull three of the survivors to
the back of our boat.
Getting in to a
boat from the water is tough enough when you are in swimming trunks and in good condition.
These people were fully clothed, with shoes
on, now water logged, and they had just been through a hell of a crash. They were dazed
and having a difficult time finding the strength to climb up our ladder.
The three men, one
at a time were instructed to place their foot on the bottom rung of our ladder along the
rear of our transom.Joe grabbed one arm of
the first guy, and I grabbed the other.As we
both pulled him up and laid him over the rear transom, I grabbed his belt and slid him in
to the boat. Then I went back to the helm to control the steering again.Joe got another victim on to the ladder rung.A round of cheers came up from the crowd watching
from the shoreline as each survivor was lifted aboard.
We repeated the
procedure and as the third survivor came on board, a NY Marine Police helicopter came on
the scene along with a NY Marine Police boat.
We got out of their way and notified them we had three survivors who
were all in good condition.We would
eventually cover them with blankets and towels to keep them warm but these fellows were in
good shape and we headed down to the 23rd street marina to drop them off.Their ordeal was just about over.
Total catch for
the day 6 Striped Bass, 2 Bluefish and 3 Humans.
In giving one of the numerous interviews, someone mentioned to Joe
that somebody ought to buy you guys a couple of beers.Joe replied, Forget the beer wed rather
have a couple of Yankee tickets.The Daily
News reporter got wind of that statement and went to George Steinbrenners press
agent.Steinbrenners office got back to
him and wanted to make Sunday, Heroes Day and send us to the game.
So on Sunday Joe and his dad, my wife Doris and I, and Miguel
the fruit truck driver went to the VIP Parking lot at Yankee Stadium.Miguel is the guy who helped a survivor on the
shoreline by jumping in to the water to help out.
We arrived at the
Yankees front office where we first get to meet Paul ONeil.Then we run in to Brian Cashman, the General
Manager of the Yankees.We then get escorted
down to the Mayors Box which is on the field level next to the Yankee dugout.These are the seats where you used to see Rudy
Guliani sitting with his son during the World Series. We get to meet all the Yankee
announcers and are handed three brand new baseballs by the Yankee head of security. He
tells us as the players come in to the dugout, ask them to sign the ball.
Well I have
to tell you my wife and I are a couple of the biggest Yankee fans on the planet and
this was just heaven for us. First Jorge Posada comes in and talks to us and signs the
ball.Then Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Bernie
Williams, Don Mattingly, Joe Gerardi, Tino Martinez and on and on.
I want to tell you
it was the thrill of a lifetime for me.All of
the players had heard about our exploits and praised us for doing an outstanding job.
For three days
after the crash came the endless interviews Channel 2,4,7,9,11, CNN, Good morning
America, the Morning Show, the Daily News, the Record, the NY Post and some Delaware
papers all wanted the story.Some interviews
took place at our marina in Englewood, some at the Yankee game, some at my house, and
another at a pizzeria in Fort Lee.A limo
picked me up at on Saturday morning to drive me to ABC News headquarters to do there
exhausting! I got 11 calls at the baseball game on my cell phone.I had to turn it off!
All in all a great
weekend and I am just so glad we were in the right place at the right time to make a
difference in the outcome of this horrible event.I
have no doubt that some of those crash victims would not have made it had we not been
there.It is a really great feeling to know
that youve made a difference in peoples lives in such a pressure
situation and didnt screw anything up.