Nearly a week after US Airways flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, the pilot of the plane and the city's first responders are still being lauded as heroes. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg commended the work of the city's first responders at a press conference on Friday, saying they saved the lives of 155 people. Hundreds of police officers and firefighters were deployed to the scene to help in the rescue operation of what is being dubbed "Miracle on the Hudson." Among those rescue workers were many Irish Americans, including NYPD scuba diver, Detective Michael Delaney, 32, who, along with his partner Detective Robert Rodriguez pulled two distressed women out of the frigid waters of the Hudson, saving their lives. Delaney, whose grandfather Tom Delaney hails from Co. Galway, told the Irish Voice that he was dispatched to the scene moments after the plane landed. Delaney, who spent a semester in Marino College in Dublin in 1995, removed his scuba tank, fins and mask and jumped from his helicopter into the ice-cold water after seeing two woman severely distressed. "There was a sense of urgency obviously when we saw the two women in the water," said Delaney, who otherwise described the scene as very calm. "When we put one of the women onto the rescue boat she was pretty much limp from the waist down from being in such freezing cold water." Delaney and Rodriguez entered the plane towards the end of the rescue, which was filling up with water quickly, to make sure there weren't any remaining passengers inside. "When you hear of a large scale airline landing in the middle of the river obviously your first impression is that there is going to be some sort of tragedy, but everyone did a fantastic job. The outcome couldn't have been better than this," said Delaney. Emergency Response Unit (ESU) Detective Sean Mulcahy, whose father Denis Mulcahy, a retired NYPD Bomb Squad detective and the founder of Project Children hails from Co. Cork, was just about to finish up his duty for the day when over the radio he heard that a plane had crashed in the Bronx. "When we heard that a plane had gone down in the Bronx we immediately began preparing to head towards it, when moments later we were told it actually came down much closer to us, actually right in our area," Mulcahy, 34, told the Irish Voice on Monday. Mulcahy, who has been with the ESU unit for seven years and the NYPD for 12, and his team were within minutes from the crash site. En route Mulcahys partners, Detectives James Coll and John McKenna, suited up in their dry suits to prepare for the worst. The detectives commandeered a Circle Line cruise boat, which took them directly to the crash site, and within minutes they were put to work. Mulcahy and Sergeant Michael McGuinness tied ropes around themselves and their colleagues. Mulcahy and McGuinness stayed on board as McKenna and Coll entered the plane. "It happened so quick," recalls Mulcahy. "We were busy dressing McKenna and Coll in their dry suites and attaching ropes to them." Upon arriving at the crash site, Mulcahy said there were dozens of people in life rafts waiting to be hoisted onto rescue boats. "The nose of the plane and right down to three quarters of it were still up, so we thought there might still be people inside," said Mulcahy, admitting he "wasn't sure if everyone made it out of there alive." McKenna and Coll were satisfied after traveling through the plane that there was no passengers left inside, so they came out and continued to help people off the life rafts and onto boats safely. Mulcahy, like many news reports over the past week, described the scene as "surprisingly calm." "The whole thing was done very swiftly and people were acting very calm," he said. "Even the scene itself, I was worried about boats ramming into each other but that didn't happen either." When all passengers were safely back at shore, Mulcahy and his team stayed with the boat just in case all passengers couldn't be accounted for. "We swapped over to an NYPD harbor launcher and stayed with the plane the entire time," said Mulcahy. "We had no idea the current was moving so quickly. When we looked up on land we couldn't believe how far we had come. "We went with the plane to its resting spot because we were still concerned that we may have to do a dive to search for someone," he added. "After a few hours we got word that everyone had made it out safely." Mulcahy said their consistent training had prepared them well for such a crises. "We always scuba train in the coldest times of the year and although it was freezing cold on Thursday we were prepared for it," he said. Echoing the sentiments of Bloomberg on Thursday evening, Mulcahy hailed U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger as the hero of the day. "He did a fantastic job putting down the plane. All his years of experience really helped him out," said Mulcahy. On that fateful Thursday afternoon while the New York skyline was quickly being littered with helicopters and streets were being closed to the public, Joe Gardner from Dublin was taking in the final sites of the Big Apple before heading back to Ireland later that evening when all hell broke loose. While strolling up 52nd Street, only four blocks from the crash site, Gardner became suspicious when out of nowhere dozens of New York police cars stopped traffic as they sped towards the river. "I didn't know at the time what had happened but I knew it was something big," said Gardner who was visiting the U.S. for a month. "Initially I was worried, nervous," said Gardner, admitting he felt it may have been a terrorist attack, but when word got onto the streets that a flock of geese may have been the cause of the plane going down he was delighted and everyone was alive he was happy. "What a miracle," he said.
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