Posted on 10/25/2015
Award nominees and those who assisted them. Left to right -- New York TRACON Ope

2015 Nominees – Mike Pitt, Terence Ryan, Robert Lynn, and Andrew Samour
Survivor – Neil O'Toole, New York, NY, 57 at time of event (June 15, 2015)
Location of event – Workplace

I am pleased to nominate the following team from the New York, NY Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility for the People Saving People award: controller, Mike Pitt; traffic management coordinator, Terence (Terry) Ryan; technician, Robert Lynn; and controller, Andrew (Andy) Samour. Though none of them had a work-related duty to respond, each played a vital role in saving the life of their colleague, 57-year-old controller Neil O’Toole, when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) on June 15, 2015. They responded swiftly and appropriately, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) until emergency medical services (EMS) arrived. By that time, O’Toole had a normal heartbeat and was breathing on his own.

O’Toole, who had no previous heart health problems, suffered his cardiac arrest in the TRACON computer room at 9:40 p.m. Co-worker Mike Pitt found O’Toole unconscious and not breathing, and immediately called his manager. A call to 911 was also placed and the paging system was used to alert anyone with emergency medical training to respond. Robert Lynn and Andy Samour responded and shared in providing CPR, which Pitt had already initiated. Terry Ryan retrieved an AED from the facility cafeteria and connected it to O’Toole. Shortly after a second shock was delivered, O’Toole began to breathe on his own, but did not immediately regain consciousness. EMS arrived 15 minutes after the call.

In a post-event review, responding paramedic Diane McCurly stated that she had never seen an SCA patient resuscitated before her arrival. She was initially skeptical that O’Toole had suffered an SCA, but she also commented that the care she observed being given was the best she had ever seen.

After 10 minutes on the scene, EMS transported O’Toole to the Nassau County Medical Center, where the ER staff was equally skeptical that O’Toole had suffered an SCA. In fact, the ER report stated that “the FAA folks overreacted.” That comment was disproved, however, by the FAA SCA Response Program medical director, Dr. Odie Braun, when she reviewed the event data stored in the AED.

After eight days of intensive care and receipt of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), Neil O’Toole was discharged from the hospital. His first stop on the way home was at the TRACON, where he personally thanked his rescuers.  

Nominated by Thomas T. Holloway, Ph.D.