SIU members employed by NY Waterway have a long record of helping people in distress, and they continued the tradition July 12 when they rescued nine individuals whose boat capsized in the Hudson River.
Capt. Jason Peters was following his daily route between Manhattan and Weehawken, New Jersey, on the ferry John Stevens when he spotted the overturned boat, changed course and answered the call for help around 3 p.m.
“They were waving for help for us to come over,” Peters said. “They were frantic. They were obviously worried about the other people. We were trying to get on as many people as we could. We got eight people out of the water…. We started throwing life jackets, life rings, just to get them out of the water.”
The SIU members involved included the crew of the John Stevens – Peters and Deckhands Steven Black and Hector Rabanes – as well as the crew of the Garden State – Capt. Anthony Ryan and Deckhands Abdul Aziz and Luis Vacca. The latter boat rescued one person. All of those Seafarers have completed safety training at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Maryland.
According to news reports, 12 people had been aboard a 27-foot boat that was chartered by a family and friends. Two of them died in the accident, while another was rescued by local authorities. New York City police and fire department personnel recovered the bodies (those of a seven-year-old boy and a 47-year-old woman).
Ryan said of the experience, “Of course it’ll stick with me. Anything like this will always stick out in your mind: what happened, how it played out, anything that could have been done better. But I think we did what we were supposed to do and what we’ve been trained to do all the time.” Black recalled, “You’re holding and pulling and holding and pulling, and you really can’t see. We had three people on the Jason’s cradle – that’s 300 pounds.”
“Some of the passengers came to help us, too, to keep our balance,” added Rabanes.
NY Waterway issued the following statement on Twitter: “We are so proud of the NY Waterway captains and crews that leapt into action today to rescue boaters following the maritime accident in the Hudson. Their training and professionalism saved lives, as they have countless times before…. Our hearts go out to the boat goers lost in today’s tragic accident and those still recovering. We are so grateful for the swift response of the NYPD, FDNY and our Waterway crews during this difficult rescue.”
NY Waterway said its crews rushed to help and coordinated with police and fire officials. Ferry service was restored after an initial interruption.
“This is a tragic day for New Yorkers,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “Indeed, it may have well been worse, were it not for the incredible efforts by not only our extraordinary first responders, but also the swift response from the NY Waterway ferries, who rescued nine additional people from the water.”
Rabanes also was part of a high-profile rescue on the same river in 2009: the “Miracle on the Hudson,” which occurred after a US Airways flight made an emergency landing on the river. SIU crews rescued nearly 150 people; Rabanes was on the first ferry (the Thomas Jefferson) responding to the scene.
Mariners sailing aboard SIU-contracted NY Waterway ferries have performed more than 100 rescues since the company’s founding in 1986. The crews perhaps are best known for their indisputably heroic roles in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when they evacuated upwards of 160,000 people from Manhattan.