On Monday, September 24, the NYPD officers, EMTs, and lifeguards who helped save a woman’s life after she was bitten by a shark off the shores of Rockaway — the first recorded shark attack in 53 years — were presented with citations at City Hall. On hand for the ceremony were NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Tania Kinsella, Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi and Mayor Eric Adams.
On August 7, Tatyana Koltunyuk was doing something she had done thousands of times before, she was going for a swim in the ocean on Beach 59th Street. Then the unthinkable happened.
“She felt something bump into her hard, she saw all of its teeth. She described how green and dirty they were. Then the shark attacked and she remembers a cloud of blood in the water,” said the victim’s daughter, Dasha Koltunyuk.
Thanks to the quick actions of the lifeguards on duty and the EMTs and police officers who responded, Tatyana survived the attack and is on the road to recovery.
“You know, she is with her family because of what you did for her, and we cannot over emphasize how much that meant, that you know, we have a New Yorker that is with her family right now because you responded,” said Mayor Eric Adams.
“I think it was a group effort. I think the lifeguards, the EMT’s and the police all had a huge part in this and one without the other, it wouldn’t have worked,” said Billy McDonnell, one of the first responding lifeguards and a Rockaway local.
Koltunyuk was unable to attend the ceremony but did send a statement which was read at the ceremony by Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, “I will forever be grateful to the police officers and EMTs who saved my life in the aftermath of the attack, and most especially to officer Rinaldo. The road to recovery ahead of me is going to be a long one, but I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to be here and to continue to marvel in life’s miracles. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me and my family during this incredibly challenging time.”
The first responders honored were Lieutenant Lifeguard Kurt Alexander, Lifeguard Romeo Ortiz, Lifeguard William McDonnell, Lifeguard Nora Schreiber, Lifeguard Evan Sheridan, EMT Michael Wasilewski, EMT Sean McBride, Police Officer John Smith, Police Officer Austin Beck and Police Officer Joseph Rinaldo.