Press Release Article


Date: Dec 06, 2012
Press Release Number: 206-2012

Thomas O’Neill cited for jumping into water to speed pumping operations

The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today recognized PATH employee Thomas O’Neill for his exceptional service in helping drain a flooded PATH rail tunnel shortly after Hurricane Sandy inflicted unprecedented damage on the rail system.

On the morning of Nov. 1, O’Neill, 56, a Pump Maintainer III with PATH’s ways and structures staff, went out on a boat with Port Authority Police to survey problems at a pumping station in one of the Hoboken PATH tunnels that suffered major flooding. O’Neill soon realized he was unable to clear key clogged valves from the boat because the water was too deep.

Without regard for his safety, O’Neill left the boat and entered four feet of possibly contaminated water to unclog the valves. That allowed the pumps to start and water removal to begin removing water. Following a mandated trip to the hospital to check for infection and receive a Tetanus shot, O’Neill was back at work the next day.

The certificate of exceptional service honoring O’Neill cites his “immediate decision to jump out of the boat into frigid, possibly contaminated water without regard for his own personal health and safety…Tom’s thorough knowledge of the PATH tunnel pump system combined with this valiant act prevented further significant damage to PATH’s tunnel infrastructure.”

“Tom O’Neill represents the best of the Port Authority’s exceptional workforce,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson. “We are grateful to Tom for his exemplary service as well as to the Port Authority’s countless other employees who acted with distinction and bravery in the line of duty during and after Hurricane Sandy.”

“Tom O’Neill’s brave actions helped get water out from this tunnel sooner than otherwise would have been possible and helped lead to faster restoration of service for tens of thousands of commuters,” said Port Authority Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. “The Port Authority recognizes the courage of this PATH worker and others who helped speed the recovery of our facilities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.”

“Individuals such as Tom O’Neill are a big part of the Port Authority rebounding strongly and quickly after this devastating storm,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “Tom’s father worked for PATH and his brother also is a PATH employee. For professionals such as Tom O’Neill, their work is far more than a job. It is a commitment to public service. We are grateful to Tom and all other Port Authority employees who enable the efficient and safe movement of people and goods in our region.”

“In the middle of the night in a dark, flooded PATH tunnel, Tom O’Neill showed why the people of the Port Authority are some of the most outstanding public servants in the world,” said Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “His commitment to the people who ride the PATH every day is extraordinary.”

CONTACT: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey   Ron Marsico, 212-435-7777

Founded in 1921, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey builds, operates, and maintains many of the most important transportation and trade infrastructure assets in the country. The agency’s network of aviation, ground, rail, and seaport facilities is among the busiest in the country, supports more than 550,000 regional jobs, and generates more than $23 billion in annual wages and $80 billion in annual economic activity. The Port Authority also owns and manages the 16-acre World Trade Center site, where construction crews are building the iconic One World Trade Center, which is now the tallest skyscraper in New York. The Port Authority receives no tax revenue from either the state of New York or New Jersey or from the City of New York. The agency relies on revenues generated by facility users, tolls, fees and rents as well as loans, bond financing, and federal grants to fund its operations. For more information, please visit

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