Ferreras-Copeland thanks local group for dramatic rescue in storm

By Bill Parry

Members of the Corona Community Ambulance Corps were treated to lunch last week by City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) to thank them for their heroics during Winter Storm Jonas, which dumped 34 inches of snow in Jackson Heights last month.

A 6-foot hero from Mama’s of Corona and cookies were a small token of appreciation for several rescue efforts during the height of the storm, especially that of a 7-year-old who was asphyxiating.

Al Perna, the group’s president, heard a call over his radio around 10 a.m. Jan. 23 about a child having difficulty breathing. Due to the rough road conditions, responders were having difficulty reaching the young girl’s home.

Perna and Melissa Salazar, a registered nurse and chief of operations, were able to make it near the child’s home in three minutes but got stuck in the snow. Salazar took off on foot the rest of the way while Perna worked to dig out their ambulance.

The girl had been bitten by a spider and she was having an allergic reaction to the venom.

“Her throat was closing up fast, you could feel she had a knot,” Perna said.

They called the 110th Precinct and urged them to send a police escort for the girl.

“I told them she needed to get to the hospital before she went into shock,” Perna said.

The girl was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where she was stabilized and underwent dialysis to clear her blood.

“I live a few doors down from the family,” Salazar said. “I’m just glad we were able to get to them fast enough. We can reach anyone in Corona in a few minutes, that’s important to us.”

The volunteer ambulance was established in 1960 and is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have assisted during emergencies in Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, including the emergency landing of a plane at LaGuardia Airport last April.

Volunteers also provide extra hands during events at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Ferreras-Copeland, who grew up just blocks away from the headquarters of the ambulance corps at 104-38 47th Ave., supported the group with $8,000 for ambulance bikes equipped with basic trauma bags. The bicycles will allow volunteers to navigate crowds and reach patients in areas where vehicles are not permitted.

“You carry the essence of this community, which is why having you here is so important to Corona and me,” Ferreras-Copeland said at the Feb. 4 lunch. “When the volunteers of the Corona Community Ambulance Corps respond to an emergency, they don’t just do it as medical professionals, they respond as genuinely concerned friends, neighbors and keepers of this community.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.