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Long Islanders among FDNY members honored for heroism

FDNY Emergency Medical Technician Ryan J. Gref, second

FDNY Emergency Medical Technician Ryan J. Gref, second from left, of Holbrook, was among 62 firefighting personel recognized in NYC on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 for their heroism. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Told a person could be trapped inside a rapidly burning home in Queens, FDNY firefighter Gerard P. McManus of South Huntington broke through reinforced doors and crawled on his belly, eventually finding an occupant in a dining room. He then dragged the badly injured victim out of the flames to safety.

McManus helped resuscitate the victim that Oct. 26 afternoon.

Then he rushed back inside.

McManus and 61 other FDNY firefighters and medics — the bravest of New York’s Bravest — were awarded medals Wednesday outside New York City Hall by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro in a ceremony attended by hundreds of the recipients’ friends, family and fellow firefighters.

At least 16 of those recognized for their heroism and bravery are Long Islanders.

“We get to honor individuals who did things that are just plain heroic,” said de Blasio said as he stood before the white-gloved honorees at the 148th ceremony. “There’s no other word for it — defying danger, achieving against all the odds.”

In a ceremony spanning hours, firefighters, medics and their families cheered civil servants who endangered themselves to save others.

“Look around, and think of all the future generations of people who will become parents and grandparents because of what you did,” said the Rev. Ann Kansfield, an FDNY chaplain.

Among the honorees who live on Long Island:

  • Firefighter Brian C. Lavelle, of Massapequa and Ladder 26 in Harlem: He rescued a mother from the 11th floor of a burning apartment building on Feb. 13, 2016, amid choking smoke and zero visibility. The 15-year veteran also heard a child’s moans and soon found the mother’s toddler, a boy, and carried him out.
  • Capt. Joseph P. McConnell of East Norwich and Ladder 42 in the Bronx: McConnell and his team faced searing heat and blackout conditions on Feb. 7, 2016, at a Bronx fire. McConnell crawled past the fire, kicked in a door, and found an unconscious boy between the bathtub and the sink. McConnell carried the boy from the residence as he and another firefighter shielded the child from the fire.
  • Emergency Medical Technician Ryan J. Gref of Holbrook and Station 4 on the banks of the East River in Manhattan: Gref disarmed a knives-brandishing sushi worker who was threatening to stab a man in a workplace dispute on Oct. 5.
  • Lieutenant Robert P. Meuser of East Northport and Ladder 48 near Fordham University: Responding to numerous calls on Nov. 27 of people trapped, Meuser and other firefighters forced their way into a fifth-floor apartment, where an older woman was trapped. Meuser, without a protective hose line, rescued the unconscious woman after spotting her feet. He used his own body to shield her from the fire overhead.
  • De Blasio used Wednesday’s event to honor two FDNY firefighters from Long Island — one retired, the other on the job — who have died from work-related illnesses or injury since the last medal ceremony.
  • Retired FDNY firefighter Ray Pfeifer died last month of cancer attributed to his rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
  • Firefighter William Tolley of Bethpage and assigned to Engine 286/Ladder 135 in Ridgewood, Queens, fell five stories to his death after apparently being jolted from a raised truck bucket while battling an apartment fire.

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