On September 13, 2021, the Marine Training Unit, staffed by Lieutenants Jason Hickey and Chris Tucker, was underway on the East River when an urgent call for a person in the Harlem River was transmitted over the Marine VHF Radio. Realizing they were less than 2 minutes away, they immediately headed their vessel in that direction and confirmed that Manhattan Box 1482 had been transmitted for the Harlem River at the RFK Bridge, which confirms the location of this incident.
Upon approach, they spotted the victim on the Manhattan side struggling to keep his head above water and being rapidly swept south along the Harlem River Drive. Lieutenant Hickey donned a swiftwater vest and tether as Lieutenant Tucker updated the dispatcher and maneuvered the vessel to conduct a direct pickup rescue.
As the victim was being rapidly swept along the seawall towards a dangerous debris field, the exhausted victim pulled himself into an approximately 4'x4' stormwater discharge tunnel. Realizing this was their only opportunity for rescue, Lieutenant Hickey entered the swift current and swam towards the discharge tunnel. Cognizant of the inherent risks of being in an enclosed space with the overhead obstructions and water violently surging up and down, Lieutenant Hickey realized that he must time his entry into the tunnel to avoid being pinned against the jagged concrete.
Without regard for his own safety, Lieutenant Hickey entered the tunnel without an alternate source of air and made his way 25 feet into the darkness towards the combative victim. Utilizing the ring buoy as a positive flotation, he secured the victim and dragged him out towards the safety of the boat. As they re-entered the 4-knot current of the Harlem River, the victim broke free and immediately became submerged. Lieutenant Hickey quickly reached underwater and grabbed the victim, securing him with his arm around the victim's chest to keep his head above water as he maneuvered the victim through the strong current.
As they approached the vessel, the victim again broke free from Lieutenant Hickey's hold and submerged approximately 5 feet underneath a New York Police Department (NYPD) vessel that had just arrived. While continuing to battle the strong currents, Lieutenant Hickey reached down and was able to grab the submerged victim's wrist with one hand and pull him up to the surface. He thrust the victim up towards rescuers on the boat as Lieutenant Tucker and members of NYPD Harbor assisted in his recovery.
Members of Marine 4 arrived and provided patient care to the victim on Randall's Island before transferring the patient to EMS Unit 1080 for transport to NY Presbyterian Hospital for further treatment.
During this dangerous rescue, Lieutenant Jason Hickey was faced with a combative victim, strong Harlem River currents, near zero visibility, confined space with overhead obstructions, limited equipment and a victim that was positioned in an extremely precarious location in immediate danger of being trapped due to surging water and incoming tide. Lieutenant Hickey's bravery, fortitude, quick decision-making, and resolve to place the victim's safety and well-being above his own, enabled him to overcome these challenges and undeniably save this victim's life.