By Ray O’Hanlon
Jason O’Donnell is the holder of two Irish Echo Awards.
He deserves a third.
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The former New Jersey Assemblyman from Bayonne was honored in the 2011 40 Under 40 Awards.
The following year he was honored at the Echo’s Labor Awards for his pro-labor stance when in the Assembly.
And a few days ago he more than qualified himself for a First Responders Award.
O’Donnell, according to a report in Hudson Reporter.com, was standing in the conference room of his Asbury Park office on May 3 when one of his coworkers looked out the window and saw a woman floundering in the still frigid waters of Wesley Lake, a narrow but deep body of water separating the city from the village of Ocean Grove.
Being a retired Bayonne firefighter, O’Donnell and co-worker Vincent Cinello ran out of the office to see if they could reach the woman struggling on the far side of the lake.
Stated the report: A boy who had parked his car along Lake Street, on the Asbury Park side, dove into the water intent on swimming across to the woman. O’Donnell and Cinello realized they could reach the woman sooner by running around the end of the lake, or crossing one of the two footbridges that straddle the lake.
After sprinting to the location, Cinello dove in and pulled the woman toward shore. The lake is bounded by a wall. O’Donnell, still on shore, reached down and grabbed the woman under her arms and pulled her up to flat ground.
She was not breathing and had no pulse. Of the three people on the scene, O’Donnell was the only one with CPR training. He attempted to revive the woman.
Meanwhile, emergency units were on the way after a 911 call.
By the time police, fire department and EMS units arrived, O’Donnell’s CPR had restored the woman’s ability to breathe, although she had not regained consciousness.
The woman would later regain consciousness in hospital.
O’Donnell and two other rescuers were commended for their rescue effort.
Said an official report into the incident: “In the span of a couple minutes, they witnessed the fall, called 9-1-1, ran to the victim, jumped into the freezing water to pull her out and perform lifesaving CPR. These everyday heroes were more than willing to stop what they were doing and put themselves in harm’s way for someone they had never met. They are an example of what makes this community great, and makes all emergency responders proud to serve it.”
Added the Hudson Reporter report: O’Donnell, who is still a resident of Bayonne, works for a lobbying firm with an office in Asbury Park. Until last year, he served as the assemblyman in 31st District, which includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City.
A former fire captain, O’Donnell is now retired from the Bayonne Fire Department.
He had been city public safety director during the administration of Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith administration, leaving that post following Mayor James Davis’s victory in the municipal runoffs last year.
O’Donnell and his wife, Kerry, have three children.