City firefighter Thomas Phelan was working as a Statue of Liberty ferry captain when two planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He sprang into action and helped evacuate hundreds of stranded people, according to The New York Daily News.
On Friday, he died of cancer at age 45. The Uniformed Firefighters Association announced his death on its Twitter page.
His cancer was believed to be due to the toxic fumes he inhaled while at Ground Zero. Hundreds of people -- many of which were first responders -- have been diagnosed with cancers linked to 9/11 and its aftermath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's World Trade Center Health Program. Phelan’s friends told The New York Daily News that they believe 9/11 caused his cancer, too. The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York claims that over 170 firefighters alone have died as a result of illnesses brought on by the terrorist attack, according to CBS New York.
“On 9/11/01, Pilot Phelan worked for Statue of Liberty ferry & took part in the largest evacuation in NYC history, as he helped evacuate lower Manhattan & rescue many people to the other side of the river,” NYC Fire Wire wrote on Facebook. “He brought supplies, rescue workers & was a huge part of the operation.”
In 2003, Phelan joined the FDNY as a firefighter assigned to a marine unit on Staten Island. Later he was promoted to a marine pilot, CNN reported.
Mayor Bill de Blasio recognized Phelan's heroism in a tweet on Sunday.