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Stamford Firefighter Honored Nationally For Boat Rescue

Stamford Firefighter William O'Connell (Left) received a national award for rescuing two people trapped in a capsized boat, he is seen here fellow firefighter Joseph Maida and Darien Police Officer Dan Ehret who also helped in the rescue.
Stamford Firefighter William O'Connell (Left) received a national award for rescuing two people trapped in a capsized boat, he is seen here fellow firefighter Joseph Maida and Darien Police Officer Dan Ehret who also helped in the rescue. Photo Credit: Anthony Buzzeo

STAMFORD, Conn. — Stamford firefighter William O’Connell responded to an overturned boat last July and was able to rescue two of the people trapped . He has now received a national award for his heroic efforts that night.

“It’s an honor to represent all of the many first responders who participated in the rescue that night. Without the dedication and hard work of my fellow firefighters, police officers and other rescuers, this terrible Stamford Harbor incident may have resulted in more causalities,” O’Connell said in a news release from the Stamford Professional Fire Fighter Association.

The Stamford fire fighter received the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award at the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indiana on Wednesday night. The award honors Fire Department of New York Deputy Chief Ray Downey, a 39-year veteran of the department, who died while commanding rescue operations at the World Trade Center during 9/11, the release said.

After hitting the seawall in Stamford Harbor the boat had overturned and became partially submerged with two victims, Anthony Basile and Kristina Caldararo, trapped inside. After getting Basile to safety O’Connell had to pull a panicked Caldararo out of the boat with a cut hand that would require stitches.

“It was a last ditch effort, I was running out of air and time,” the firefighter said in the release.

The body of the boat’s operator, Keith Morris, a New Rochelle firefighter, was found the next day.

“Firefighter O’Connell and the other first responders performed extraordinarily under extremely difficult circumstances,” said Stamford Fire Department Lt. James Kravchuk, who nominated O’Connell for the award, in the release.

“Firefighter O’Connell’s actions that evening are indicative of the 24/7 job done by the members of the Stamford Fire Department,” said Brendan Keatley, president of the Stamford Professional Fire Fighters Association.  “All of our city’s first responders were critically instrumental in saving two lives that night.”

All of the first responders that played a part in the rescue last summer have also been honored locally by Stamford Fire & Rescue Department and New Rochelle City Council .

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