Queens contractors rescue jumper from East River

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Mere hours before the official start of summer, a pair of Queens contractors took an unexpected dip into the East River Friday to save a man who had just jumped off the Queensboro Bridge.

Belle Harbor’s Hank Vought and Ozone Park’s Joe Tynan dove into the water from the coast of Roosevelt Island around 8 a.m. after their colleague, Will George of the Bronx, ran over shouting that a man was drowning.

“We saw the guy, he was in a lot of trouble,” said Vought, 49. “He was calling out for help.”

“He took off his pants and jumped in,” 42-year-old Tynan said of Vought, although he was a bit more modest himself.

“I kept my pants on,” Tynan admitted.

They swam out to the victim and dragged him back to the shore, where George, 47, and 37-year-old Tom Chindemi of Pearl River helped pull him back onto solid ground.

The tired foursome recounted their rescue effort Friday afternoon in a conference room at Elmhurst Hospital Center, where the victim was listed in serious condition.

Dr. George Agriantonis, the director of traumatic surgery at Elmhurst, said his patient was “very lucky” to have come away from his fall with very few injuries.

The drop from the Queensboro Bridge, which crosses the river at a height of 150 feet, would typically cause severe bone and head trauma, Agriantonis said.

“The cops said nobody lives,” Tynan said of the fall.

At the time of their heroic save, the four men were all starting work on a construction project at Coler Goldwater Hospital, a sister institution to Elmhurst that sits at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, directly south of the bridge.

Vought led the rescue with an aquatic sensibility he acquired growing up on the Rockaway peninsula.

“I tell people I was in the ocean before I even knew how to walk,” Vought said.

After swimming over to the jumper and telling him to stay calm, Vought instructed him to face away from his rescuers to prevent him from grabbing them and accidentally pulling them all underwater. Then he and Tynan latched onto him and helped him ashore.

The men said the jumper was panicked but cooperative when they reached him.

“He was really in shock,” Tynan said.

No information about the identity of the jumper was released.

Although he did strip off his pants, Vought showed some modesty of his own.

“We didn’t really do a whole lot,” he insisted. “We went for a swim this morning.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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