Knicks to Honor Man Who Saved Taxi Driver from Drowning During Sandy

By Jeff Mays on November 8, 2012 11:36am 

HARLEM— The man who rescued a stranded taxi driver from drowning during the height of Hurricane Sandy will be honored for his efforts by the New York Knicks on Friday.

Jon Candelaria, 25, was watching the Oct. 29 storm from the window of the apartment he shares with his family at the Stanley Isaacs Houses at 93rd St. and First Avenue when he saw the cab driving North onto the FDR Drive despite high flood waters.

The cab soon became stuck and 6-foot-5 Candelaria, wearing nothing more than his coat and a pair of shorts, ran downstairs, waded through chest deep waters, wrenched the cab door open, and carried the driver to safety.

'We wanted to honor some heroes from Hurricane Sandy and he was one of the heroes that stuck out," said Gianna Smith, coordinator of community relations for the Knicks.

Since DNAinfo New York first reported on Candelaria's heroics, he has been featured on Anderson Cooper 360, 20/20 and received countless calls and e-mails from strangers thanking him for taking action.

"It's an amazing feeling. Everyone is so thankful," said Candelaria, an employee of the Hard Rock Cafe's accounting department who is also a student at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in East Elmhurst.

"One man told me he was going to tell his children this story when they were older so they could learn how we are supposed to treat one another," said Candelaria.

After seeing the car picked up and spun 180 degrees by the water, Candelaria ran downstairs and pushed his way through the chilly and churning waters with debris floating past him.

When Candelaria finally reached the driver, the water was up to his chin and he looked like he was preparing for death, he said. It wasn't until he banged on the car did the driver snap back to life.

Candelaria pulled on the stuck door and the driver pushed. The strong winds stopped for a moment and the door swung open. Candelaria hoisted the approximately 5-feet-1 inch tall driver over his shoulder and carried him to safety.

 Jon Candelaria, 25, waded into chest deep flood waters during Hurricane Sandy to carry this taxi driver to safety. The driver left before Candelaria could get his name.
Jon Candelaria, 25, waded into chest deep flood waters during Hurricane Sandy to carry this taxi driver to safety. The driver left before Candelaria could get his name.
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Rita Callahan

The 911 system was so overloaded when Candelaria's mother called for help, he fears the driver would have drowned in the vehicle had he not taken immediate action.

The 3-0 Knicks have plans to roll out the red carpet for Candelaria during and before Friday's game at Madison Square Garden versus the Dallas Mavericks.

Candelaria will participate in a shoot-around with the team and watch the game. During halftime, he will receive an award and a donation to charity in his name.

"Given the circumstances, this is something we wanted to do," said Smith.

The mystery cab driver was swept away by police after posing for a picture in the lobby. The tenant leader at Isaacs Houses has been working to locate the man.

Candelaria, meanwhile, has been enjoying the response to his actions.

"I'm a real humble guy. I didn't ask for all of this exposure but I'm grateful," he said. "I just wanted to save him."

 This photo shows John Candelaria wading through the water behind Isaacs Houses to rescue a taxi driver who became stuck while trying to enter the FDR Drive during the height of Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29.
This photo shows John Candelaria wading through the water behind Isaacs Houses to rescue a taxi driver who became stuck while trying to enter the FDR Drive during the height of Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29.
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Wanda Candelaria

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