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November 2020

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Extraordinary Team Effort in New York
Saves a Brother's Life

When the heart stops pumping, damage doesn't begin immediately.

By minute six, the heart muscle begins to die. After seven minutes without treatment the chance of survival is only about 25%. Irreversible brain damage starts at 10 minutes.

New York Local 3 member William "Bill" Randel's clock started ticking sometime around 2 a.m. the morning of August 17, 2019.

Randel is a critical systems specialist, a journeyman inside wireman who works with energized circuits. That night, he was inside John F. Kennedy Airport's Terminal 4, substation E1. The station has rows of switches arrayed like the stacks in a library. Every row is open at its end. You can be close to other people, but if you are on the other side of the stack, working alone as Randel was, you are out of sight.

That morning, he was doing maintenance work on a 5,000-amp, 480-volt circuit breaker enclosure. His crew were modifying a single switch, shutting off power to a corner of the airport.

Tony Solazzo was removing and retying cables that ran into the switchgear that was being reset. He joined Local 3 more than 35 years ago after a day when he looked at his life as a salesman at an investment bank and realized, college degree or no, this life wasn't for him.

Solazzo, foreman Pete Schulman and fourth-year helper Tom Kenedy were inside the substation on the other side of a bank of panels from Randel.

Frank T. Saladino, Jr., a 37-year, third-generation member of Local 3, was with a team of journeymen wiremen installing a temporary generator. When the switch was shut down at the substation it killed the power at the office of a baggage handling department, and the generator would allow the passengers coming in at that late hour to get their baggage. The rest of the substation was live, however.

Saladino was 100 feet away from the substation when Randel's clock started ticking.

"Billy disconnected the power source so that we could function safely, and begin our work," Saladino said. "While we were busy performing our tasks, I was told Billy continued standard maintenance of the substation which may have included cleaning the remaining switches in an effort to prevent future problems." It was Jack Dromm — who served in the Coast Guard before joining Local 3 — who found Randel.

"He yelled 'Man down. Get out of the gear!'" Solazzo says.

Solazzo ran around the stack and saw Bill on his back.

"Right away, I put my hand on his chest to see if he is breathing and it was weird. I don't have a lot of experience with this. I got a gasp now and then, but it wasn't really breathing," he said.

Dromm started chest compressions. Someone called 911. Solazzo took over. Then Schulman. Then Kenedy.

Saladino said he has no idea how long it was before he crossed the 100 feet.

He had been a lifeguard for four years, starting at age 17. He saw no one was giving mouth to mouth and knew the brain needed oxygen. He heard it was no longer necessary and that chest compressions are enough.

"But," thought Saladino, "what if they're wrong? And I'm just standing here. What if it could help?"

"I could never forgive myself if Billy survived and had little or no brain function. So, I thought, 'I guess it's me, God,'" he said.

After a few disjointed efforts, where a compression came on the same beat as a breath of air, Kenedy coordinated.

"Like a conductor," Saladino said.

The clock hit 20 minutes, then half an hour. He worked, Solazzo said, until Dromm or Schulman tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I got this."

"Billy is a huge guy, and I felt like I was dancing on this poor guy's chest. I didn't want to break ribs, but I wanted to move blood," Solazzo said.

Thirty-five minutes after they began CPR, someone, they aren't sure who, showed up with an AED, an automated defibrillator, the shock pads that can get a heart pumping.

"We all got a break when they hit him," Solazzo said.

The first time the computer tried to detect a heartbeat and found nothing

"We shock him with this thing, and he jumps off the floor and nothing. It says, 'Continue CPR.' Then it talks again. Then boom! Billy jumps up in the air again," Saladino says.

At 2:50, the police finally arrived. Then the EMS. Getting to the bowels of the airport's restricted areas had taken an eternity.

"When they took him out, I didn't think he would make it. He showed no sign of improvement," Saladino said.

"I am basically a hopeful person but I couldn't have given you odds. It seemed he was out for quite awhile. Ultimately, it was in God's hands, so I walked away hopeful. This is a man's life, and I don't take it lightly, but after you do everything you can it's out of your hands," Solazzo said. "He wasn't gone. And as long as there is life there is hope."

The hope turned out to be well-founded. Randel was in the ICU for two weeks and was released from the hospital after the third week. He has since returned to work.

Solazzo, Saladino, Dromm, Schulman and Kenedy were all presented with the IBEW Lifesaving Award at the July 9, 2020 General Membership meeting in the auditorium of Local 3's Electrical Industry Center.

They were also recognized by the Detectives Endowment Association of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department, which presented an American flag flown at the World Trade Center to Local 3. The Port Authority runs the five New York-area airports, including JFK.

At the ceremony, Kenedy spoke.

"Stay alert and always be safe. Things can go wrong on even the simplest tasks," he said.


New York Local 3 leaders including Business Manager Chris Erikson (4th from right) presented the Lifesaving Award to (holding plaques) Pete Shulman (3rd from left) Frank Saladino, Tom Kenedy, Anthony Solazzo and Jack Dromm.