One year ago today US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing on the Hudson River. The unprecedented incident, the pilot’s ability to safely land the aircraft and the rescue of all 155 passengers and crew would become known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
Although many Guardians were recognized for their heroism and hard work on that cold, 20-degree day in New York City, one Guardian stood out. Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Benjamin Foster’s selfless actions saved the life of at least one passenger and assisted in the safe rescue of the other 154 passengers and crew members.
Knowing that a fully loaded commercial airplane crashing into the Hudson River is a serious mass rescue operation, Petty Officer Foster and his crew immediately diverted from their ferry escort to aid the passengers. As the first Coast Guard boat to arrive on the scene of the crash, they knew that the amount of time passengers spent in the bone-chilling 36-degree water would be the difference between life and death.
Unsure of the extent of passenger injuries and how fast the plane was flooding, the crew maneuvered the boat next to the sinking aircraft and began assisting passengers off the wing and out of the cabin. As they were evacuating people, Foster saw an elderly woman fall without a life jacket into the icy water from one of the aircraft’s wings. Daringly, he entered the debris-filled water and safely rescued the woman.
During the rescue Foster injured his leg but, not knowing the severity of the injury, he continued to assist with the evacuation efforts for several more hours. It wasn’t until his left leg had nearly doubled in size and he was unable to continue to walk that he sought medical attention. He was evacuated to the hospital where doctors discovered he had a potentially life threatening blood vessel rupture in his quadricep. He was treated to stop the bleeding and held overnight at the Intensive Care Unit.
“I really think that anybody would have done the same thing that I did, but I think the whole thing is bigger than just an award. I think that the most important thing was that we saved everybody that day and that means more than anything to me,” said Foster.
During this extraordinary rescue and unprecedented operation, Petty Officer Foster demonstrated remarkable initiative, courage, and stamina despite the perilous mass rescue situation and cold weather conditions. For his valor, he earned the Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal, which is the noncombat counterpart of the Bronze Star Medal. Foster also received the 2009 George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award from the United Service Organization (USO) and an award for heroism from the Coast Guard Foundation. Click here to watch a video interview with Foster on the Coast Guard Foundation Web site (fourth video on the page).
“Thank you very much for choosing me as the Guardian of the week, it’s truly an honor. Also, I want to thank my crew that day and my shipmates from Station New York. We could not have had such a successful rescue that day unless everyone was on their “A” game.”
Bravo Zulu to Petty Officer Foster for his outstanding dedication to duty, to the Coast Guard and to its missions.
Although Petty Officer Foster was assigned to Coast Guard Station New York during the rescue of US Airways Flight 1549 passengers, he has since transferred and is currently assigned to the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Dorado out of Crescent City, Cali.
Do you know someone in the Coast Guard that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations for Guardian of the Week using the submit button at the top of the page.