Never Off Duty

 Never Off Duty

By Katie McFadden

A firefighter is never off duty. He might not have been on a tour, but Lt. Richie Cannon didn’t hesitate to spring into action at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning, when someone needed rescue from a burning car on the Belt Parkway.

Cannon, a Breezy Point resident who helps organize the Rockaway Warriors Weekend, was being praised as a hero himself for his actions over the weekend. The Cannon family was considering spending the night at their friend’s house in Staten Island after their daughter fell asleep after a birthday party, but when she woke up, the family decided to hit the road and head home to sleep in their own beds. That choice would lead Cannon to being in the right place at the right time.

“I was driving home at around 3 a.m., and we got on the Belt and these two cars literally blew right by us and were weaving in and out of lanes,” Cannon said. Cannon was driving with his wife, Lauren, and two kids, ages 7 and 6, in the car as he watched the corvette and a BMW speed past them. “I thought, look at these two, somebody’s gonna get hurt,” he said. “Two minutes later, we come up on the accident right in front of us. We didn’t see the actual crash, but we were right behind it. There was still dust and dirt in the air.”

Cannon decided to pull his car over, near the Bay Parkway overpass, where the two cars had gotten into an accident. “Right away I knew I had to help because the blue car was already on fire,” he said. The corvette’s engine at the rear of the car had burst into flames after the accident. But it didn’t deter Cannon from taking action. As an FDNY firefighter for 23 years, working out of Ladder 148 in Brooklyn, it was just an unexpected, unpaid call to duty. “I pulled our car over to the shoulder so it wouldn’t get hit by anyone else, jumped out of the car, and ran over to the driver’s side of the corvette,” he said. However, he ran into an issue. “I couldn’t get the front door open. It was pinned from the accident,” Cannon said. He then called for backup, contacting the Brooklyn Fire Dispatcher to let them know who he was, the location, what had happened, and that he was going to get the victim out.

And he did just that. “I hung up the phone and went around to the passenger side, reached in and unbuckled his seatbelt to try to pull him out through the passenger side. It took like two tries to get him over the center console,” he said. Meanwhile, the fire continued to rage. “Since the fire was in the back, the heat was right at the back of his head. It was hot, but because I didn’t have my gear on, I only had a sweatshirt, I got him out quick,” he said. Shortly after the man was removed, the car was engulfed in flames.

After removing the unconscious man from the vehicle, Cannon and another man who arrived on the scene, moved him to a safer area. “Once I got him outside on the ground, another guy showed up. I don’t know where he came from but I told him to grab the man’s arms so we could pull him. We pulled him over to the grass and an off-duty Maimonides EMT was there and he started patient care, and I assisted him. He was unconscious and had labored breathing, so he was very badly injured,” he said. As soon as an ambulance arrived, the EMTs took the man to a nearby hospital, while FDNY arrived to put out the fire in both vehicles involved. As we go to press, Cannon had not heard anything about the man’s condition.

Asked why he would step into action while off-duty, Cannon said, “It’s just what I believe any fireman, cop, or anyone in this first responder work would do. I don’t think any of us is ever off-duty. It’s what we’re trained to do, and we would hope other people would do the same if we were in trouble or our family was in trouble. I’d hope someone would stop and help. If any other firefighter or cop drove by, they would help. There were plenty of people that drove by and didn’t help. But you see this other paramedic, he was a younger kid and he stopped to help because he knew he needed to, and hopefully in the long run, it’ll work out for this guy we rescued if he makes it.”

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