Friday, July 20, 2001

Bystanders play heroes

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bystanders pulled a cab driver and his passenger from the Ohio River after the taxi raced down a Cincinnati boat ramp Thursday and hit the water without attempting to stop.

        Witnesses say the driver accelerated down the boat ramp at 40 mph and didn't slow even after hitting a pedestrian.

        “It took two seconds. He went straight into the water and very fast,” said C. Cisse, who was working nearby when the accident happened. “Some people jumped in the water and went after them.”

[photo] Emergency personnel tended to an injured cab passenger (front) and taxi driver Thursday after the vehicle struck a crew member of the American Queen riverboat (rear) as the taxi raced down a boat ramp, then plunged into the Ohio River.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        The cab hit the water with a boom that was heard across the river at the Newport Aquarium. It crashed into the murky water only feet away from the bow of the American Queen riverboat and began sinking almost immediately.

        “She was moving really fast. The front section was submerged. I just ran out, took off my clothes and dove in,” said Michael Yunes, American Queen executive housekeeper.

        “One of the guys bobbed up right away, I got him in a fireman's crawl and pulled him back,” the Miami, Fla., resident said.

        While Mr. Yunes was helping the passenger, another American Queen crew member, Vince Bredford, was rescuing the cab driver.

        But it wasn't until both men were lying on the concrete ramp that Mr. Yunes said he recognized the cab's passenger as another crew member.

        “I didn't even realize it. But my main concern was the guy who was hit by the car,” he said. “We didn't hear any screech and there are no skid marks.”

        The pedestrian, who was not identified by police, was another crew member of the American Queen.

        The cab driver and both crew members were all taken by ambulance to University Hospital. The cab driver has been charged with failure to control.

        Police, who did not identify the driver or the cab company, are investigating the accident.

        “We're just fortunate, there wasn't more people hurt,” said Randy Delperdang, American Queen executive director. “And it looks like we have two heroes on board.”

        Mr. Delperdang said the pedestrian and the passenger were both conscious, but he said the pedestrian seemed to be the more seriously injured.

        “The fire and police departments responded very quickly and very professionally,” he said.

        The accident happened about 11:30 a.m., but just a few hours later, Mr. Delperdang said, and the boat ramp would have been crowded with people waiting to board for a four-night cruise upriver.

        Mr. Delperdang said the accident would not affect the 7:30 p.m. departure.


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