Hero FDNY EMT saves 3 in dramatic Coney Island water rescue

FDNY EMT Mitch Tarnapolsky is being hailed as a hero for jumping into the water off Coney Island to save the lives of three people who were in trouble.

The Coney Island beach is a popular spot for New Yorkers looking to beat the sweltering summer heat. But the beaches bring their own dangers, like rip currents that can drag swimmers out to sea.

On the evening of July 6, two young brothers, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old, were having trouble in the waters off Coney Island. A bystander who jumped into the water to attempt to save them also became in need of assistance.

EMT Tarnapolsky jumped into action, risking his own life to save the stranded trio. 

"As soon as I get on the radio and tell my dispatchers, I took my shirt off, took my boots off and I jumped right into the water and I swim about a hundred yards out and see him in distress grabbed him," Tarnapolsky told FOX 5 NY. "On the way back, I see his brother, also in distress, told him, the initial brother to grab the brother and started swimming back."

Tarnapolsky formed a human chain so they could all get back safely to the shore.

"I put one on my left hip, and then as I was swimming back, I told him to grab his brother and hold him while we were swimming back," he said.

Other members of the FDNY's Gator Unit, who are specially trained to handle water emergencies, quickly arrived on the scene.

"Without hesitation jumped into the water, and helped me bring them out. Once we got them to the shoreline, I went back to the 3rd victim that I was trying to help initially and help him come back to the shoreline," Tarnapolsky said.

Tarnapolsky credits his team with making this daring and daunting rescue possible.

The FDNY says Gator Units are on patrol every day during the season and have longer hours on weekends. They advise not swimming at any location where there is no lifeguard on duty. 

If you do find yourself caught in a riptide, Tarnapolsky says to try to swim parallel to the shore.