Monday, March 14, 2011

City sanitation worker Lance Lewin saved a life and went right back to work 

Downtown Manhattan looked like a scene from "The Day After Tomorrow" when sanitation worker Lance Lewin was sent to clear Elizabeth St. at the height of the post-Christmas snowstorm.

He came across someone in trouble in a stuck car.

"I knocked on the window, then I opened the door and here's Pinky," said Lewin, referring to Pincus Tusk, who was having a heart attack.

Lewin called for help and stayed with Tusk until paramedics, hindered by impassable streets, finally arrived. They got Tusk, 63, to the hospital.

Lewin, 33, kept on plowing, the days forming a white blur, his encounter with Tusk seeming unreal.

But Lewin's phone rang a few days later, and it was Tusk asking, "Is this my savior?"

"Yeah ...he's alive, he's gonna be all right," Lewin thought.

For his quick thinking, compassion and dedication, Lewin is the Daily News Hero of the Month.

"I'm feeling better," Tusk, of Flatbush, Brooklyn, told The News. "I'll never forget what he did. All I can say is thank you."

Lewin, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, has been with the Sanitation Department for 11 years. On Dec. 26, he had been working for 15 hours.

"We were getting our butts kicked by the snow," he said. "It took one hour and 45 minutes to get from South St. to Elizabeth St. in the Haulster" (a four-wheel drive vehicle with a plow in front and a hopper in the back).

He had plowed in front of the 5th Precinct stationhouse when he turned onto Elizabeth St. and found a dozen cars stuck in the snow.

On Grand St., as he was helping a man get his car out of the way of a fire truck, another man told him, "There's a dude in trouble in that car," pointing across the street.

Tusk had gotten stuck behind a car and helped push it free. Then he started having chest pains.

"He was done," Lewin said of Tusk. "He had no color, he'd been out there for over an hour, his car ran out of gas.

"My phone was dead, so I jumped on the radio, and said, 'Send EMS, there's a guy dying right in front of me,'" Lewin recalled.

"I asked who should I call. I was giving him chest compressions. I knew CPR," he continued. "It was surreal; it seemed like it took forever. I called the last number on his cell phone and got his son."

Suddenly, Emergency Medical Service paramedics came running up the block, bringing a chair. Their vehicle couldn't get down the block.

Tusk was gasping for air.

Firefighters pushed the car out of the way, Lewin helped get the stuck fire engine out, and Tusk was taken to Beth Israel Medical Center .

Lewin, who was born and raised in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, went back to his garage and told his co-workers, "I just saved a man's life." They responded, "Great, get out and plow Second Ave."

He later dropped off Tusk's car keys with his son Moshe at the hospital. "He hugged me. ...I said if it was my father, I'd want someone to be there with him," Lewin said.

"If he was gonna die, he shouldn't die alone."

When the rescue was in The News the next day, "Everyone went crazy, my phone, Facebook, emails," Lewin said. "His son texted me, 'You're an angel.' I got a little choked up."

Lewin finally reunited with Tusk a couple of weeks ago for the photograph shown here.

The act of compassion has earned Lewin a few citations, including one last week from the 7th Precinct, where his sanitation garage is located.

But Lewin said his greatest reward was being there for Tusk.

"It was meant to be," Lewin said.


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