On June 5, 2021, members of Marine Co. 8. staffed by Lieutenant Christopher Tucker and Firefighters Michael Greene, Patrick Thornton and Michael McNamara received a distress call for a vessel taking on water approximately 2 miles south of Great Kills Harbor, Staten Island. They immediately requested a marine box assignment and headed in the initial direction of the call for help.
Arriving within minutes, they spotted an 18-foot Bowrider with two victims on board that was listing to the starboard side. As Marine Co. 8. maneuvered to come alongside to remove the victims and begin de-watering operations, the vessel suddenly became overtaken by a large wave, and without warning, it began to sink. Observing the victims going into the water, Firefighter Green immediately maneuvered the marine unit for a direct pickup.
As Lieutenant Tucker and Firefighter McNamara rescued the first victim, Firefighter Thornton directed the second victim to swim away from the sinking vessel to avoid being pulled down by the boat or the water column that would form upon its sinking. As the victim hesitated, the vessel quickly rolled, trapping him underneath the sinking boat. Without hesitation, Firefighter Thornton removed his Personal Flotation Device and immediately dove into the water, underneath the sinking vessel, and brought the victim to the surface. With the victim now rescued from underneath the vessel, Firefighter Thornton swam the victim to the safety of Marine Co. 8. where he was pulled out of the water onto the deck by Firefighter McNamara and Lieutenant Tucker.
After the successful water rescue, members of Marine Co. 8. immediately began patient assessment and coordinated with Staten Island Dispatch to affect a safe and efficient transfer at Atlantis Marina. Both victims were then evaluated by EMS 21 A and 23 C at the scene.
During this dangerous water rescue operation, Firefighter Thornton displayed great courage and quick decision-making. When offered one chance to save the victim before he was unreachable, Firefighter Thornton did not hesitate and seized the opportunity. His bravery, decisive actions and resolve to place the victim's life above his own safety, undoubtedly saved this man's life.