The FDNY’s Niall O’Shaughnessy
By Ray O’Hanlon
Niall O’Shaughnessy is a man you want in your corner, or to be just around the corner if you get into a spot of bother.
The Limerick native made headlines last year when, along with a fellow Irish-born FDNY member, Sean Cummings, he came to aid of a woman lying helpless on a subway track in Manhattan.
She was Irish too.
O’Shaughnessy and Cummings were both honored at the inaugural Irish Echo First Responders Awards last October.
The woman who was in danger of drowning in the Hudson River on Monday wasn’t Irish.
But her rescuer was.
Once again it Niall O’Shaughnessy of FDNY Rescue Zero One, a specialized paramedic unit trained to deal with the most serious emergencies, including water rescues.
O’Shaughnessy and his partner, Moses Nelson, were on station in their FDNY ambulance near the World Trade Center site when the call came in.
There was a woman in the Hudson struggling to stay afloat. Another few minutes and she would for sure go under.
The FDNY duo raced to the scene on Pier 25. Parks Department personnel had thrown the woman a lifebelt but she was having a hard time hanging on.
The Hudson is big water. It is turbulent, tidal and known for strong currents.
The woman called out that she was tired. There was nothing for it but to jump in as, at this point, there was no sign of a rescue boat.
“I took off my radio and boots and jumped in,” O’Shaughnessy told the Echo.
He reached the woman and made sure she was more secure on the life preserver.
“She was a little panicky when I first got to her but I reassured here that an FDNY rescue boat was on the way,” O’Shaughnessy said.
“I just told her to be strong, to trust me and to hang on with me until the rescue boat arrived.
Which it did in a matter of minutes.
“She was very grateful but also very upset,” said O’Shaughnessy of the woman he had just saved from a watery grave.
Rescued and rescuer were both taken to hospital.
O’Shaughnessy was ready to return to duty, but regulations require a check-up.
And after that the dreaded paperwork.
“That’s the first thing I thought about after it all. Oh no the paperwork,” said O’Shaughnessy with a laugh.
And there was more. The FDNY called a press conference.
Another laugh from the Limerick hero.
“I would rather jump in the river twenty times than stand in front of cameras,” he said.
But there was no avoiding the press gathering.
Still, after the questions and answers, it was early home.
Next day, however, Niall O’Shaughnessy was back on duty, all of us safer for his service.