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Paramedic Hailed As Hero For Rescuing Woman On Ventilator After Tappan Zee Crane Collapse

GRAND VIEW-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Some heroic actions saved a woman who was just minutes away from death when the crane came down on the Tappan Zee Bridge this week.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, the woman was in an ambulance on a ventilator to keep her breathing when the crane collapsed on the bridge.

The lights and siren were not much help when traffic on the thruway stopped cold Tuesday. The collapsed crane blocked the bridge in both directions, and although no one was seriously injured, at least one person in that traffic was facing mortal danger.

PHOTOS: Tappan Zee Bridge Crane Collapse | TRAFFIC: Click Here For Current Conditions
"It was minutes," said Lisa Goldberg of Medway Transport. "It was literally life-saving, and it was minutes."

In the Rockland County-bound traffic was an ambulette carrying a 26-year-old on a respirator back from a doctor's appointment. A life-sustaining machine was running out of power.

"The machine started beeping while they were sitting in traffic, so you were basically flying on fumes," said family friend Yisrael Kahan.

"The patient cannot physically breathe on their own," Goldberg said. "It is literally providing life-sustaining measures."

Enter paramedic Ailyea Langbaum, who was driving her ambulance the wrong way on the wrong way on the Thruway on the Rockland side and riding right up to the collapsed crane. She got out with a portable ventilator.

"The state troopers and the fire department initially stopped me, and I explained to them what was going on. They assisted me in getting over the crane. I started on foot up the southbound side of the bridge," Langbaum said.

A mile away, she got to the ambulette roughly 40 minutes after the crane fell – and not a moment too soon.

"I listened to their vent die as I was finishing the final tuning and hooking up to my vent," Langbaum said. "Another five minutes and this patient would've likely died in the ambulette."

It was another 44 minutes before they managed to get the ambulette turned around and off the bridge. CBS2's Young asked Langbaum the obvious question, and she provided the usual answer.

"I do not feel like a hero," she said. "This is my job."

The patient is unable to speak, but Kahan said the woman is aware of Langbaum's efforts and very appreciative of what she did.

Emergency medical personnel said traffic diversion measures kept traffic away from the approach to the bridge and made the rescue possible.

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