Fisherman Tells Rescuers the Tug of a Giant Fish Sent Him Plunging Into the Harlem River

Friends say alcohol likely played a role, and the man later said he slipped while casting a line

A slippery step -- or perhaps the tug of a giant fish -- sent a fisherman plunging off the East River Greenway and into the Harlem River, where he was eventually rescued by the FDNY. 

The 60-something-year-old man told rescuers he was fishing around 5 p.m. Friday when a large fish pulled on his line and yanked him off the greenway. But friends say alcohol may have played a role and the man later said he slipped and fell while casting the line. 

Chopper 4 was flying overhead, just south of East 120th Street, as the man dangled half-submerged, clinging onto a tree branch thrown out by his friends. 

One of the man's friends, Alejandro Garcia, described the terrifying ordeal. 

"When he threw the fishing pole in the water, he went with it, all the way down," Garcia said in Spanish. 

"We got the branch and then he was holding it, we tried to get him up, but we couldn't do it." 

Garcia said his friend was in the water for more than 15 minutes. Onlookers and police watched from above as he continued to dangle, waiting to be rescued.

An FDNY crew heading to save him got stuck in holiday weekend traffic, but luckily for the man, an FDNY boat was nearby. 

Just as it seemed a current might pull the man away, in swooped the boat from the FDNY's Marine Company 4.

Three firefighters on board -- Ed Poli, Harry Callahan and Andrew Antoni -- pulled him out of the water about five minutes after the call went out. 

"We were able to bring our boat right against the seawall and butt up against the seawall," FDNY Lt. Ed Poli said. "Myself and fireman Antoni were able to grab the individual and pull him onto the boat." 

The man was so relieved to be rescued, he blessed himself with the sign of the cross and later said he would go dancing on Saturday. 

He was rushed to a hospital for observation and released Friday night with a bruise to his knee. He told News 4 that he slipped while tossing his fishing line into the water. 

But Poli said the man talked about having a big fish -- "an 'Old Man and the Sea' type of thing," as he described it. 

Either way, it was a happy ending to a fishing story in which three firefighters ended up with the biggest catch of all. 

"It's just another day at the office," Antoni said. 

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