Members of the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department came to the rescue of a baby duck that fell through a storm sewer grate at the northern edge of Gateway Natural Recreation Area last Thursday afternoon.
Alas, the little fellow didn’t make it — but it wasn’t for the lack of trying on the part of the WHBFD, city officials and some civilians.
Howard Beach resident Dick Tortora said he was on his way home from a Cross Bay Boulevard store when he spotted two baby ducks walking in the middle of 165th Avenue near 84th Street.
“They can’t be in the middle of the street,” Tortora thought to himself.
Concerned for their safety, he attempted to usher them back into the Gateway Preserve.
“The ducks couldn’t jump high enough to get over the curb and back onto the sidewalk,” Tortora said.
He tried to catch the young fowl to get them to safety, but they split and waddled away in different directions.
One duck, on his way toward 84th Street, fell down a storm drain. The other duck, who was eventually able to jump over the curb and into the Gateway grass, peeked out from its hideout to look for its sibling, but quickly turned around and headed back into the preserve.
Fearing the worst for the first duck, Tortora nervously peered down into the drain.
However, his fears were somewhat alleviated when he saw the duck swimming at the bottom of the sewer.
Still, Tortora knew the duck needed to be rescued — and soon. The Howard Beach man called the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, members of which quickly arrived to rescue the duck.
Tortora had also requested the assistance of the city Department of Environmental Protection and Animal Care and Control.
A neighbor contacted the office of state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and asked for help.
Addabbo’s staff also called DEP and requested help in the rescue.
DEP Supervisor Brendan Quigley and Animal Care and Control Assistant Director of Operations Michael Pastore arrived soon after the firefighters.
A spokesman for the firefighters said that when they arrived at the scene they used a crowbar to lift the sewer grate and, with an improvised net, quickly scooped up the duck and gave him to Tortora, who named him, “Donald the Duck.”
West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department Chief Joe Aldana, and firefighters Fred Grey, John Abouricheh, Lionel Horry and James McCabe participated in the rescue.
“The rescue took about 15 minutes,” said a department spokesman.
Although wet and shivering “Donald the Duck” appeared OK — which, sadly, turned out not to be the case.
Pastore took the baby duck to wildlife rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath, who run the nonprofit rescue group “Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation.” Cathy Horvath said that about an hour after the baby duck was brought to her and her husband, a city firefighter, its little heart gave out and he died.