Two Congers volunteer firefighters have been honored for their efforts to rescue an unconscious New Jersey man whose car ended up on the — with a freight train closing in fast.
Lt. Damian Lennon and Ex-Chief Peter Eckhart of the Congers Fire Department won the 2012 Joseph Costello Firefighter of The Year Award from the New Jersey-New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association at the organization's convention at Hillsdale (NJ) Fire Headquarters.
They were cited for their actions on the night of Feb. 24 in downtown Congers, where a car became stuck on the West Shore Line tracks right at the old Congers train station. The 62-year-old driver from Old Tappan, NJ, had apparently made a wrong turn and got his car stuck on the tracks, and in the effort to get the car off the tracks suffered a heart attack.
The man and his car were on the tracks as a northbound CSX freight train was quickly approaching. Although the driver died a few days later at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, Eckhart and Lennon were cited for helping to give the driver a chance at survival.
Eckhart was in downtown Congers — just a few blocks from the Congers firehouse — when the car got stuck on the tracks just after 8 p.m. He and a Clarkstown police officer pulled the ailing driver from the tracks just before the train slammed into the car stuck on the tracks.
Clarkstown police officers Robert Fortune and Robert Lynn performed CPR on the driver. As the Congers Fire Department was alerted to the accident, Lennon arrived at the scene and assisted with CPR.
Lennon stayed with the driver and continued CPR in the Congers-Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps rig all the way to Nyack Hospital, where the driver was initially taken for emergency treatment. The driver was also assisted by members of Rockland Paramedics.
"The quick thinking of both Lieutenant Lennon and Past Chief Eckhart were both vital parts in saving and prolonging the life of driver in a very scary and rapidly changing situation," said the citation honoring the two men. "The brave actions of both men showed the effort put forth by a firefighter in the heat of the moment and the face of adversity."