Tuesday night, the 60-year-old Egyptian chief engineer of the Grey Shark was having a heart attack. The Panamanian Ro/Ro cargo ship was anchored a mile out to sea between the Verrazano Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, when the distress call went out at 9:45 p.m. NYPD Harbor units responded staging a dramatic nighttime rescue mission in NY Harbor.

Grey Shark. Photo: tugster

From the NY Post: Detective Robert Brager, an ESU tactical medic, rushed to the captain with his partner Detective Mel Maurice. They went on a boat from Miller’s Launch, a Staten Island pier, after communicating with NYPD Harbor and Aviation.

 “I knew as a paramedic, time was of the essence,” said Brager.

Rescuers, confronted with narrow stairways and corridors quickly realized their failing cardiac patient couldn’t be carried out safely, never mind a rescue boat in dark, choppy waters. Then there was the time factor. Getting back to shore could take an hour, an hour the stricken engineer didn’t have.

NYPD. Photo: Mitch Waxman

From the Staten Island Advance: Brager and Maurice took a pilot ship from the [Miller’s] launch to the vessel. Akl was in the captain’s chambers, and after they boarded and found him, they knew they’d face problems getting him back to shore.

“The way we came in, we would not be able to get him out, regardless of his condition,” he said. The stairways weren’t open, like you’d find on a cruise ship, he explained. Rather, they were narrow enough for just one person to go through.

“It would have been really dangerous,” he said.

“Aviation 14,” a Bell 412 Air, Sea Rescue helicopter, was already on its way, with a contingent of two pilots, two scuba divers if needed, and two crew chiefs. That crew included officer Christopher Maher, the pilot, Sgt. John O’Hara, the co-pilot, officer Colin Woode, the crew chief, and Det. Ralph Gaglioti, the second crew chief.

The decision was made quickly to stage a dramatic air-sea rescue. A helicopter hovered 250 feet above the Grey Shark, while crew lowered a basket down to lift the patient and paramedic into the chopper.

From the Staten Island Advance: the helicopter made its way to Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, where the attending physician met them at the helipad. Akl was listed in fair condition on Wednesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee