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Teamwork to the rescue: FDNY, NYPD partner to pull fallen man from Queens storm drain

First responders speak about a daring rescue of a 47-year-old man trapped in a storm drain in Queens on Sept. 5, 2021.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Some of the city’s most skilled first responders teamed up on Sunday to make a smooth, yet complex rescue of a man who fell down a Queens storm drain.

It’s still not clear how the 47-year-old man wound up tumbling 30 feet down the drain near the Cross Island Parkway and Whitestone Expressway in Whitestone at about 8:03 a.m. on Sept. 5. He survived the plunge, but wound up with a leg injury upon landing. He couldn’t make it out on his own.

The victim had been stuck there for many long moments by the time the NYPD Emergency Services Unit and FDNY Squad Company 61 arrived on the scene. Though the rival between the Bravest and Finest is well-known throughout New York City, they put it aside when it comes to saving someone in need.

“We work very very well together, the NYPD and FDNY,” said FDNY Assistant Chief Michael Gala during a press conference about the rescue on Sunday afternoon in Flushing. “We train together constantly on a lot of different topics and scenarios. This was very successful.”

Over the next 20 minutes, according to some of the first responders who participated in the operation, the NYPD and FDNY worked to get the injured man out of the storm drain.

Three first responders played key roles in the rescue: Firefighter Kris Kabashi of Squad 61, along with Detectives Steven Orlando and Kenneth Lagallo. Kabashi made direct contact with the victim by going down into the hole to tend to his injuries and prepare him for the lift out.

“We basically told him that it was going to be okay,” Kabashi said. “I think as soon as he saw us come down, he felt better.”

After Kabashi fitted the victim’s leg with a temporary brace, they began the process of getting him out of the hole. Using a basket hooked on a line attached to a tower ladder, first responders gradually brought the victim up out of the hole to safety.

EMS units rushed the man to NewYork-Presbyterian Queens hospital in Flushing, where he’s in stable condition and expected to make a recovery.

While praising the work of the FDNY and NYPD officers involved in the rescue, Chief Gala stressed the importance of New Yorkers using the 911 hotline whenever a life-threatening emergency strikes.

If you are in trouble, if a family member is in trouble, before you attempt any kind of rescue, call 911,” Gala said. “Our response time is usually 3-4 minutes. As a team, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”

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