CBSN

Thomas Phelan, firefighter who evacuated hundreds on 9/11, dies of cancer at 45

NEW YORK -- A former ferry captain who helped evacuate hundreds of people from Manhattan after the Sept. 11 terror attacks has died. Thomas Phelan was 45 and had cancer. 

Family and friends told the New York Daily News they believe Phelan got cancer from toxic fumes at ground zero.   

Phelan was a Statue of Liberty ferry captain in 2001. He helped evacuate Lower Manhattan and ferried rescue workers and supplies.

Two years after the attacks, he became a firefighter assigned to a marine unit on Staten Island. 

Scientific evidence linking the attacks to cancer is still unsettled. Researchers studying illnesses among people exposed to the 9/11 dust cloud have found an unusual number of deaths from brain malignancies and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but fewer deaths than expected from other types of cancer.  

The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York says more than 170 firefighters have died as the result of illnesses related to the World Trade Center attacks, according to CBS New York.