adminwp November 23, 2007
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Construction is a hazardous industry in which to work but few have a building job as dangerous as that of Newryman Peter Fitzpatrick. Peter, who is the brother of Back-of-the- Dam lady Margaret Young …


Corkman John Corkery, Peter Fitzpatrick’s employer

… has settled in the New York/New Jersey area where he is a commercial diver.

For Peter a normal day’s work entails climbing into the dank waters to repair damaged and decaying piers or to install foundation of new ones. Underwater welding? Peter’s your man. Directing heavy building lifting equipment up to 40′ beneath the water’s surface? Not a problem.

Part of the time Peter works for Corkman John Corkery (pictured) who now owns a large construction firm. The latter describes Peter as ‘one of the bravest men I have ever met’. 

One major job occurred in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre attacks on 11 September 2001. Corkery’s emergency service pumping team needed expert divers to enter the waterlogged New Jersey PATH train tunnels. Fitzpatrick led the team.

Conditions in the tunnels were unknown but potentially deadly. Peter Fitzpatrick who has been in the USA for a decade waded 1500 feet in knee deep water in the one-mile long tunnel beneath the Hudson River towards the PATH train stop beneath the World Trade Centre.

‘The carbon monoxide level in the tunnel was fairly high,’ said Peter. ‘It has a 20-mile-an-hour breeze and that morning it smelled of death from the Twin Towers.’

We were pumping from the deepest end of the tunnel and my job was to take in the pumping lines, plug the ends of the pipes to fill them with air, then remove the plugs and sink them in the water to create a siphon effect. It was done very professionally.’

Temperatures were high in the tunnels and the divers were coming out dehydrated. Peter was interviewed as he relaxed at home with a beer on the deck of his home which faces the Pocono Mountains.

‘It’s like any other construction job, not really all that perilous2, he commented humbly. ‘My colleagues are very professional.’

Within a few days of the emergency repair work at the PATH train tunnels, he was back at his regular work repairing piers in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Before entering the water the divers are briefed with engineers’ maps of the area.

‘Often the visibility is down to one or two feet, darker than dark,’ said Peter who is now in his forties. ‘You always see some trash lying on the bottom that you have to be careful of but you would see that in the canal in Newry! We all get our regular medical check-ups and hepatitis shots.’

‘I’m getting on in years but there are guys diving well into their 50s and some even into their 60s.’

Asked about the tools of the trade, he listed protection equipment, fuel, diving equipment, gaskets, cable, strapping equipment, rollers, floatation equipment, caps, plugs, miles of rope, inflatable boats, pumps, rail cars, chain saws, bars, clamps, hard hats, goggles and glasses, gas monitors, extension cords, air hoses, fans, generators …. I was sorry I asked! I wished him and his colleagues all the best for the future.

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