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A New York City firefighter, who heroically aided in the evacuation of hundreds of people from Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, while working as a ferry captain, died Friday at the age of 45.

Thomas Phelan, 45, of Brooklyn, died from cancer linked to the toxic fumes emitted at Ground Zero, according to his family, friends and officials, the New York Daily News reported.

Phelan was working as a Statue of Liberty ferry captain when terrorists flew two airplanes into the World Trade Center. To assist in evacuating people from Lower Manhattan, Phelan turned his tour boat into a rescue vessel and played a key role in the aftermath of the attack.

“He brought supplies, rescue workers & was a huge part of the operation,” according to the NYC Fire Wire Facebook page.

Phelan joined the FDNY in May 2003 and was assigned to Engine Co. 55. He was later promoted to marine patrol and transferred to Marine 9 in Staten Island.

Paul Iannizzotto, a coworker of Phelan’s at Engine 55, wrote on Facebook, “Always a stand up guy, always doing the right thing, and will be sorely missed. Rest easy brother.”

In a Sunday tweet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote that Phelan, whose “heroism saved hundreds of lives … in our city’s darkest hour,” would never be forgotten.

“[Phelan’s] work during the evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11 will not be forgotten,” the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York stated. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. This has been a hard week for firefighters.”

Phelan died a day after two FDNY firefighters — Lt. Christopher J. Raguso and Fire Marshal Christopher T. Zanetis — died in a U.S. Air Force helicopter crash in western Iraq.


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