FDNY hero has roots in West Milford

| 26 Apr 2012 | 01:29

WEST MILFORD — Soon it will be time to sign the kids up for swimming lessons at Bubbling Springs, joining the thousands of children who have learned to swim in the West Milford Lake over the years.One little guy who took his lessons there a long time ago has gone on to be a hero, jumping into the Hudson River on March 20 to rescue a woman floating in the frigid water. Randy Regan, a New York City fireman who spent his summers growing up here in West Milford, saved the woman from the Hudson while he was on his way to work.

Regan remembers Bubbling Springs well.

“We had lessons as soon as we could walk.I remember it was really cold,” he said.Good preparation for a rescue in the 48-degree New York river.

Regan’s father, Jack Regan, 75, has been coming to West Milford in the summertime since he was a boy.Relatives in Upper Greenwood Lake took care of the Manhattan “city kids.”

Jack, the father of six, followed suit and in the summer he brought his family to the cooler climate and beautiful lakes of the township. He built a home “up the mountain” in the early 70s, where he now lives full time.

The Regan family became very active in West Milford summersports.Jack coached Little League and had all his kids involved.

As a youngster,Regan became a lifeguard, working at Bubbling Springs, Greenwood Lake and Upper Greenwood Lake.On his visits to West Milford now, he still enjoys a swim in Upper Greenwood Lake.

To the rescue Regan, 45,lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children. He has been a member of the FDNY for 20 years, working out of Ladder Co. 20, a busy firehouse on Lafayette St. in Manhattan.

As is his custom, Regan was riding his bike to work on a path by the river that Tuesday morning, ayear-round routine.

“It’s a nice ride, you don’t have to go through the streets.It’s about six miles door to door,” he said.

It’s common for him to leave earlyin case he runs into a delay.Arriving on time for work is imperativesince the men relive each other on a one-to-one basis.

Peddling along, Regan’s eye was drawn to something floating in the river. After a closer look he realized it was a woman, very calm, with her arm slung over a log.Two other bystanders had seen her and as they were calling 911, Regan went into action.

“I climbed over the fence and called out to her.She was making no movements,” he said.

In 48-degree water it’s not long beforeexhaustion, disorientation and unconsciousness set in and she was making no effort to help herself.

“I took off my shirt, but left on my shoes, went over the fence and onto a rock wall.My biggest concern was getting back out on that mossy rock wall. I’d have to pull myself back up,” he said.Thecurrent was at two knots.

“I swam out to her, tried to keep talking to her and keep her calm.I asked her if she could put her hand out and let go of the log.She was looking at me,and then she put out her hand,” he said.

Continuing on to work By Regan’s standards, this was a fairly easy rescue.He got the 54-year-old woman to shore, pushed her up on the rocks with the help of a few men.

Regan ran to a nearby boat basin to get blankets and, with the help of a few parks department employees, they carried her back to a heated office and wrapped her up.When the emergency personnel arrived, he explained the situation then told them he had to go to work.

The woman did not utter a single word throughout the ordeal.

Now back on his bike, soaking wet except for his shirt, Randy arrived on time for work, ready to relieve his counterpart.

Regan doesn’t know what happened with the lady in the river.He doesn’t know how long she was in there nor how she came to be in the water. He most likely never will.

“It usually happens with us, we never get information on the people we save.There’s too much going on, there’s no connection,” he said.

Did he think twice before diving into the river?

“You definitely have to give it a little thought.You don’t want to have two victims.Could I get back out of the water?There would be no point in jumping in if I couldn’t.You’d have to come up with another idea, but by that time it could be too late,” he said.

It appears Regan did everything right.And there’s no one prouderthan his dad, Jack.

“I’ve always been proud of him.He was a great youngster and I’m delighted to see the kind of man he’s grown into," said Jack."I’m not surprised he got back on his bike; he had to get to work on time.”

Of course he did.Who knows who else would need him that day.