When a New York-based Limerick man jumped into the freezing Hudson River yesterday afternoon to rescue a suicidal man, it was the third time he risked his own life to save others.
40 year-old New York Fire Department paramedic Niall O’Shaughnessy, a native of O’Connell Avenue in Limerick City, was driving in Lower Manhattan at 2:50 pm with his partner Mingze Wu when they saw a group of police officers near the river’s edge.
According to the Irish Central website, an unstable patient had escaped a Lower Manhattan hospital and attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the Hudson.
“The cops had put down a life ring and were trying to pull him up but he was starting to slip off the life ring,” said O’Shaughnessy, an 11-year veteran of the New York Fire Department.
Despite the temperature in the low 20s and falling snow, the Limerick man removed his equipment belt, grabbed a flotation device from his truck, and jumped into the arctic waters.
“I swam behind him and locked my arms around him to keep him secure. My partner and other firefighters began pulling us up.”
The cold quickly set in.
“Within about 30 seconds, I could definitely feel it in my arms and legs.They weren’t really working. I couldn’t barely get my hand around the ladder they had sent down.”
The man he was rescuing was doing much worse.
“He was lethargic and definitely hypothermic. He was having trouble forming words.”
After both men were taken aboard a rescue boat, O’Shaughnessy was taken to Lower Manhattan Hospital for a “warm up,” he said.
“I’m OK,” he added. “I’m doing good now.”
The man he rescued was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he is listed in stable condition..
In July 2015, the Limerick paramedic jumped into the Hudson River to save a woman from drowning.
O’Shaughnessy, then 38, dove into the grimy New York river on a Monday morning when he noted the woman was in dire distress.
The FDNY paramedic had told the New York Post: “This was my first time I jumped in the water [for a rescue]. “I have no idea why she jumped in, my concern was to just get her out.”
O’Shaughnessy has also put himself in danger for a stranger in July 2014, when he jumped between subway cars to aid an Irish J-1 student who had fallen onto the tracks at the 49th Street station in Midtown.
Mary Downey, from Belfast, had fallen from the platform and, while only suffering a broken shoulder, was stuck under the subway train.
O’Shaughnessy’s colleagues have called him a “true hero.”
“It takes courage to do what Niall did today, placing his life on the line to save others,” said Oren Barzilay, president of EMS Local 2507.
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