DC 37 members played a vital role as responders to the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009. Back then, Public Employee Press ran a story about the role of DC 37 members in the rescue effort that is part of the backdrop to the movie “Sully,” named for the pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger. The article posted here appeared in the March 2009 issue of the union’s newspaper.
By ALFREDO ALVARADO
“I have a debt of gratitude that I may never be able to pay,” said Chesley B. Sullenberger, the heroic union pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, which he guided safely onto the icy Hudson River Jan. 15 in a daring emergency landing with 155 passengers aboard.
The debt, he told Katie Couric on “60 Minutes,” was to the unsung heroes of the day, the first responders.
Lt. Jeff Krulfeirer, a member of Uniformed EMS Officers Local 3621, was among the rescuers Sullenberger referred to. Working out of the Division One Borough Command on South Street in Lower Manhattan, he was one of the many DC 37 members ready to come to the aid of the passengers, who were on their way to North Carolina when their plane went down just minutes after takeoff.
Members set up triage area
Krulfeirer raced to the New York Waterway terminal pier, where he immediately cordoned off space and set up a triage area. “I was very surprised to see a commercial plane,” said the 15-year veteran. “I thought it would be smaller.”
He interviewed and treated 68 passengers, most of them suffering from mild hypothermia. He comforted the shivering passengers and made sure they all had warm blankets. “Jeff is one of the many FDNY-EMS frontline leaders that made a difference that day,” said Local 3621 President Lt. Thomas K. Eppinger.
The lieutenant got a lot of assistance in setting up the triage area from members of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics Local 2507. “They helped tag all of the passengers so we could keep track of the priorities,” he said. EMTs Amela Cirikovic and Sean Wright of Unit 45 Adam made the triage operation run smoothly. “They were awesome,” Krulfeirer said of the Local 2507 members.
“This rescue shows that our members are as vital to this city as the Police and Fire departments,” said Local 2507 President Patrick Bahnken.
While the members of the EMS locals dealt directly with the passengers, Local 1549 members answered the emergency 911 phone calls and Local 983 members helped control the crowds that gathered as Flight 1549 passengers were brought ashore.
“For a minute I thought it was another terrorist attack,” said 911 operator Deborah Boylan, a member of Local 1549, as she recalled the dozens of phone calls that flooded in when Flight 1549 went down. “The most important thing during a crisis is to remain calm and make sure you get the right information from the caller,” said the Police Communications Technician.
Local 983 members helped with crowd control along Hudson River Park, which extends from Lower Manhattan to 59th St., as swarming reporters and television crews tried to get the passengers’ stories.
“There must have been a hundred media people there,” said Sgt. Nancy Mercado, an Associate Urban Park Ranger. The team of Local 983 members who assisted in crowd control that day included Celia Joseph, Daniel Carter, Anthony Burbge, Kahanna Ftubbs, Tyeisha Pugh and Yvette Rhodes. Members of the other DC 37 locals who assisted in the rescue were too numerous to list.
“What could have been a major tragedy was averted, thanks to dedicated and well-trained city employees,” said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. “And we’re very proud of our members, who once again stepped up during an emergency and worked so well together when they were most needed.”
The entire Flight 1549 rescue wore a union label. In addition to the DC 37 locals, critical roles were played by members of the unions of Airline Pilots, Flight Attendants, Air Traffic Controllers, Seafarers (ferry crews) and New York City Police, Firefighters and Fire Officers.