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Firefighters Put Their Prototype Stretcher to the Test at Kennedy

MELVILLE, N.Y.-- A trio of current and former city firefighters taking a business trip to promote a lifesaving rescue device they invented had an unexpected chance to put it to good use yesterday when a man on their plane suffered a heart attack.

Firefighter Thomas Fee and retired lieutenants Michael Harty and Frank Haskell boarded the early-morning flight at Kennedy Airport yesterday, on their way to meet a manufacturer for a small, lightweight stretcher they designed to transport sick or wounded people.

They took a prototype of the stretcher aboard, not knowing that within minutes, a fellow passenger would have a heart attack.

"I saw the face of his son," said Fee, 40, of South Hempstead. "You could see his fear."

Fee, Harty and Haskell sprang out of their seats, administered CPR and oxygen, and used a defibrillator given them by flight attendants to shock the unconscious patient in the chest, they said.

After stabilizing him, the firefighters used the stretcher -- which they call a rescue sled -- to take him down the airplane stairs to the terminal, from where paramedics took him to Jamaica Hospital in Queens, they said.

"We realized we had to move him quickly down the aisle," said Harty, 53, of West Islip. "We're just so happy we saved a life."

Hospital officials could not immediately confirm the heart attack victim's identity or condition last night.

Haskell, 48, of West Islip, said the city's Fire Department has asked for prototypes of the rescue sled for field testing.

Once their rescue mission was completed, the local heroes continued to their destination in Tennessee yesterday to try to make the rescue sled available to emergency responders everywhere.

"The bottom line is that we saved his life," he said. "Without this stretcher, it may have turned out different."

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