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[Teterboro Airport Index]

The Record, Local News Section, Friday, April 20, 2001

Airport workers, cop, save pilot, 79
Ohioan lands, then suffers heart attack

By Peter Pochna, Staff Writer

Teterboro – Ricardo Thomas was fueling a plane at Teterboro Airport on Thursday when he heard the frantic call on the radio: "Does anybody know CPR?"

Thomas, a former Marine from Secaucus, rushed to the offices of his employer, Signature Flight Support. There he found a 79-year-old pilot sprawled on the floor, blood spilling from his head. He was unconscious and not breathing and had no pulse.

Thomas and another Signature employee, Carlos Martinez of Carlstadt, began administering CPR.

With the help of Moonachie police Officer Richard Behrens, who arrived minutes later, the two airport technicians may have saved the man’s life, authorities said.

The pilot, James Webb of Toledo, Ohio, was listed in critical condition Thursday night at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Webb suffered a heart attack at 12:25 p.m., minutes after landing his plane at the airport, authorities said. The two airport technicians helped restore his breathing with CPR, then Behrens revived his heartbeat with a jolt from a defibrillator, they said.

"It wasn’t anything heroic," said Thomas, 31. "We just did what had to be done."

Webb, who had flown in with his wife from Toledo to visit friends, appeared to be disoriented the moment he landed his red, single-engine Comanche propeller plane, witnesses told police. Instead of following directions from the flight tower, he cut across a runway without clearance, they said.

"It’s lucky he even got the plane on the ground," said Moonachie Police Chief Michael McGahn.

Webb parked his plane in front of Signature, walked in, and collapsed next to the customer service desk, hitting his head hard on the floor, the chief said.

Martinez, 36, was walking toward Signature’s building when a secretary ran out and asked whether he knew CPR. Like Thomas, he had received CPR training in the armed forces, having served in the Army National Guard.

The two men got to Webb at about the same time. Color was draining from his face as a crowd formed around him. Thomas began pressing down on Webb’s chest while Martinez administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"It was a pretty chaotic scene," Martinez said. "We stayed focused and tried to make sure he was comfortable."

They estimated they worked on Webb for about eight minutes. By the time Behrens arrived, Webb was breathing – but barely, they said.

Moonachie was one of the first departments in the area to equip its officers with defibrillators; they’ve carried the lifesaving devices in their patrol cars for about three years.

Behrens attached the electrodes from the machine to Webb’s chest and the jolt revived him. Martinez and Thomas helped carry him to the ambulance.

"They are very humble about it, but what these guys did is incredible," said Denise Catino, a Signature spokeswoman. "We are very proud of them."

Webb’s wife was brought to the hospital with her husband. Police have little information about the couple, however, in part because his wife suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Their son was expected to fly in from his home in Texas on Thursday night.



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