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Firefighters make waterway rescue

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

BAYONNE, NJ - On January 23, 2010 members of the Bayonne Fire Department were dispatched to the Kill Van Kull at Bergen Point (southern tip of the city) in response to multiple calls about a person floating in the water.

Initially Engine 2 and Tower Ladder 1, the nearest companies to the scene were dispatched. Upon hearing the call, Battalion Chief Keith Weaver ordered Engine 4 to respond and launch their 16 foot Boston Whaler rescue boat. When the boat was launched the report was updated to a conscious person floating in the water.

The Kill Van Kull is a tidal strait about three miles long and 1,000 feet wide, separating Bayonne, from the New York City borough of Staten Island. It passes under the Bayonne Bridge and is a major passage for ship traffic between Manhattan and industrial cities in New Jersey. It is a waterway with a swift current. “Kill” comes from a Middle Dutch word, “kille” meaning riverbed or water channel.

A police officer tried twice unsuccessfully to swim out to the victim, being hampered by the cold temperature of the water.

When Captain Peter Aiello and firefighters Gary Sisk and Steven Lombardi reached the victim (about fifty yards from shore), they found an elderly male fully clothed and unable to communicate with them, due to apparent shock and exposure. Firefighter Lombardi, who donned an insulated suit enroute to the scene entered the water and held the man until the rest of the crew were able to get him on board and cover him to conserve warmth.

He was brought to Brady’s Dock, the city pier nearby at which time a McCabe Ambulance crew passed a Reeves stretcher to them. The victim was transferred to the stretcher and handed over to EMS.

It was undetermined whether the man jumped or fell into the water. Fire Chief Gregory Rogers praised the crew stating that their proper training paid off in saving a life.

The strait is normally busy with ship traffic plus it has two tugboat terminals on the Staten Island side.

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JOHN MALECKYSenior Columnist

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