An accident involving an ILA Local 824 member who was tossed into the turbulent Hudson River while tying up the passenger ship, Norwegian Breakaway, this past Sunday could have turned deadly, but instead had a happy ending thanks to a heroic rescue and lifesaving effort by a fellow ILA member. Mark McQuaid, 37-years-old and a 10-year veteran of ILA Local 824 was securing ropes on the passenger ship Norwegian Breakaway, at the Manhattan Passenger Ship Pier 88, when he was suddenly flung into the Hudson River.
McQuaid was wearing a life vest but the weight of his soaking shoes and clothes made it impossible for him to grab hold of a ladder. Fellow ILA 824 member, 63-year-old Franco Leoncini, the Foreman, heard the commotion and bravely descended the ladder to save his brother ILA member.
Another veteran ILA Local 824 member, Tonie Durko, was working the passenger ship Sunday morning and witnessed the entire episode. She described it as a “very tense five to eight minutes,” as Foreman Franco Leoncini dangled off the end of the ladder extending his outstretched hands trying to grab a struggling McQuaid.
“It was absolutely necessary for someone to help McQuaid and come to his aid as he was floundering and was not able to reach the ladder to get out of the water,” Durko said.
After a seemingly endless struggle, Franco Leoncini grabbed hold of McQuaid. He had McQuaid step onto his shoulder and then onto the ladder.
Exhausted from his heroic actions that saved a man’s life, Leoncini himself needed assistance getting back up the ladder and received aid from Ahmed Khirie, a Ports of America security guard. All made it safely back up to the pier.
Emergency Medical Technicians on the scene checked out both McQuaid and Leoncini before they were transported to Mt. Sinai Hospital where they were examined and released.
Franco Leoncini is a true ILA hero who put his own life at risk to save a brother member.
Both Leoncini and McQuaid gave thanks and high praise to their fellow ILA 824 members, EMTS, custom agents and police who came to their aid at the pier. They also wanted to thank Ports of America for their assistance. They both described themselves as proud members of the ILA, especially their home ILA Local 824.
“We wish all our fellow ILA members a Merry Christmas,” both Leoncini and McQuaid said, each grateful that a horrible tragedy had been averted.
Ron Misiti, President of ILA Local 824 added his thanks to Franco Leoncini for demonstrating “true brotherhood,” in his rescue of Mark McQuaid.
“I’m proud of all my members of Local 824,” said President Misiti, “Franco Leoncini and Mark McQuaid are great people. I’m so grateful and happy that everyone is safe.”
“This is the kind of story that makes you proud of the ILA and its members,” said International ILA President Harold Daggett. “Instead of another accidental death on the waterfront, we have a new hero in the ILA.”
It truly is a Christmas miracle and the family of ILA members salutes its heroic member, Foreman Franco Leoncini of ILA Local 824.