After passengers near Larisa Enker, 74, alerted those around them that she seemed unresponsive just after the door to the gate had closed, she was brought off the aircraft by three people: a Louisiana cardiologist named Conrad Jablonski and the two Jets trainers, Josh Koch and Dave Zuffelato.
BY SETH WALDER / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Larisa Enker doesn’t remember boarding the plane at Newark on Monday, Feb. 17, scheduled to fly her back to Indianapolis. She doesn’t remember waking up at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center at some point afterward, either.
In the long interim that she can’t recall, Enker, 74, had a heart attack and had her life saved by her fellow passengers, including two Jets trainers, and Port Authority police officers on the ground at the airport.
After passengers near her alerted those around them that Enker seemed unresponsive just after the door to the gate had closed, she was brought off the aircraft by three people: a Louisiana cardiologist named Conrad Jablonski and the two Jets trainers, Josh Koch and Dave Zuffelato. Jablonski, who had been at the front of the plane, remembered seeing Enker slowly make her way to her seat a few minutes earlier, one of the last passengers on the aircraft.
On the jetway, the three of them performed CPR on Enker as she continued to be unresponsive, had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. Together with the Port Authority police arriving on scene, they were able to restore her pulse on the second shock from an AED. Using what Jablonski described as an “old school” oxygen tank and mask, they were able to get her breathing as well.
Enker was brought to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, where she is still recovering from both the heart attack and broken ribs as a result of CPR. She was emotionally moved when she heard of the quick action taken by her three fellow passengers.
“(They) practically saved my life,” Enker said. “I was crying when I find out. I was very touched.”
Enker is originally from Estonia, but has lived in Indianapolis for the past 22 years. She was on her way back from Israel, where she had been on vacation, and was connecting through Newark.
“I don’t remember anything. Absolutely nothing,” Enker said. “I don’t even remember being on the plane.”
It’s difficult for her to talk with her broken ribs, but she recognized that the bones were a small price to pay in exchange for the treatment she received.
Police believe that the swift work of Jablonski, Koch and Zuffelato were critical in saving Enker’s life.
“This lady here was quite fortunate that she had these Jets guys that were there,” Port Authority Lieutenant Thomas Toht said. “These Jets guys, for them to step up, it was a big deal.”
Of course, Jablonski had never met Koch and Zuffelato, but the three had to work in concert, and quickly, to help Enker.
“Absolutely, the key with her was, everybody doing the role,” Jablonski said. “One guy was doing CPR, and the other guy was manipulating the equipment the way I asked him. All of those things worked very well. It was a great team effort.”
“This was unbelievable,” he added. “It certainly couldn’t have been done without the other trainers. Without those other two guys, I think the outcome would have been not as good.”
The two Jets trainers were on their way to the NFL’s annual scouting combine, and they reboarded their plane after Enker’s situation became stable enough to move her. Word of their actions didn’t come out for a week.
“First of all and most importantly, we’re thankful that she survived and is receiving the medical attention that she needs,” Jets president Neil Glat said in a statement. “When it comes to Dave and Josh, their response doesn’t surprise me at all. They are dedicated, selfless employees, who are ready and willing to help someone. We’re always proud of our own, and glad they were able to provide some assistance.”
“We’re conditioned to help people,” Zuffelato said via the team when word came out. “When the situation arose, the doctor, Josh and I did our best to help.”
The two trainers declined further comment through a team spokesperson.