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Mayor honors first responders who saved woman following Queens shark attack

Sep. 26, 2023 By Dean Moses

Mayor Eric Adams presented citations Monday evening to the first responders who helped save a woman’s life after a shark attack in Queens last month.

Two EMTs, three cops and several lifeguards were honored for aiding 65-year-old Tatyana Koltunyuk who was attacked by a shark on Aug. 7 just off Rockaway Beach. They are credited for saving her following a vicious bite wound to her leg—in what is a swimmer’s worst nightmare. 

“You were able to save someone’s life. She is with her family because of what you did for her,” Mayor Adams said during a City Hall ceremony in which he honored their heroic actions. “We cannot overemphasize how much that meant that we have a New Yorker that is with a family right now.”

EMTs Sean McBride and Michael Wasilewski were recognized while lifeguards Romeo Ortiz, Nora Schreiber, Kurt Alexander, William McDonnell, and Evan Sherdan were honored alongside NYPD officers Austin Beck, Joseph Rinaldo and John Smith.  Collectively, they were able to apply a tourniquet that stopped the bleeding and rush to the hospital.

Mayor Adams presents citations. Photo by Dean Moses

Although Koltunyuk did not attend the commemoration in person since she is still recovering, she did pen a letter in which she particularly thanked one cop.

“I will forever be grateful to the police officers and EMTs who saved my life in the aftermath of the attack and most especially to Officer Rinaldo,” the letter read in part. “I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to be here and to continue to marvel in life’s miracles.”

Officer Joseph Rinaldo spoke to amNewYork Metro following the ceremony and revealed why he had received an extra special thank you. According to Rinaldo, he rode in the back of the ambulance alongside Koltunyuk and also kept in touch with her daughter in order to ensure she made a recovery.

“I just hoped someone would do that for my family,” Rinaldo said.

The cops pose with NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Tania Kinsella.Photo by Dean Moses

Officer Joseph Rinaldo.Photo by Dean Moses

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