The Reluctant Hero

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Katerina Valdivieso/Brooklyn Ink
Photo: Valdivieso/Brooklyn Ink

Katerina Valdivieso

“Hey Keith, did you save the pocketbook also?” A man walking down Sheepshead Bay’s Pier 5 asks Keith Gorman, the fisherman who on Saturday rescued a woman and her two daughters.

It’s around noon and Gorman is getting ready for his 1 o’clock trip to go fishing with Captain Steve Ventura’s crew, the owner of Sea Queen VII. A few men — all residents of Sheepshead Bay– usually gather around the Sea Queen before its departure. They sit on the benches by the piers to chat and watch the people passing by. Today, Gorman is the focus of conversation as they talk about the car that sunk and the people he rescued.

Gorman has been working at Sea Queen VII, a recreational fishing boat, for about five years. “This is the second time I jumped in the water for someone,” he says unassumingly.

On Saturday evening, the woman, Alla Yelizarov, 43, who drove the car into the water, was coming from Staten Island to attend a party in one the restaurants on the bay. Gorman says that the woman was trying to park in the middle of Emmons Avenue, a highly trafficked road, especially on Saturday night when diners are looking for places to park. Gorman says he thinks the woman got nervous because other drivers were honking at her. She stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes and lost control of the car. The car broke the metal fence and went straight into the water. The skid marks are still visible in the sidewalk close to the fence.

“The woman didn’t want to come out, she was afraid of the water,” remembers Gorman. “The girls were on top of the roof when I jumped in the water but I had to get the woman ‘cuz she didn’t want to get out of the car. She was very scared.”

Gorman didn’t think twice about jumping off the pier. “We were all working at Sea Queen when we heard all the mess,” he says. “I got closer to see what was happening and when I saw nobody was jumping in the water I took my rubber boots off and jumped in. I think everything happened in less than five minutes.”

Eddie Colon, another fisherman of Sea Queen VII, witnessed the accident. “Everyone was screaming, everyone was saying ‘Get out of the car,'” he says. “But the only one who jumped in was Keith.”

Now, a couple walking by pauses to inspect the iron fence that is now covered with tape and a temporary yellow wooden fence. They ask Gorman if he knows what happened there.

“You didn’t see the news?” he replies.

“No., We don’t read the newspapers anymore” says the woman. He has been the subject of many local interviews and was on Good Morning America on Monday. (He has also received a bottled of Hennessy and a box of Italian chocolates.) Gorman gives them a quick and terse version of the story.

“I got the woman out of the car,” he says.

The man shakes Gorman’s hand.

“There was another guy that helped,” he tells them. But he wishes to remain anonymous. Also New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has called Gorman to congratulate him and this weekend he will come down to Pier 7, where the accident happened, to award him publicly.

Gorman is 42 years old, about 6’2” tall and powerfully built. He tells the story of the rescue as if he had done this a million of times before. In fact, he says, Captain Ventura trains them for such emergencies. “In the summer is different, though, the water is much higher,” Gorman says. “See the water now? It’s low, it’s just about 10 feet deep.”

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