Yaakov Yosef Rosenberg, a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary pilot from Spring Valley, was honored on Wednesday by the Ramapo Police Department for his heroism in piloting to a safe landing a plane whose engine had failed.
The ceremony was held at the home of Rosenberg, who is still recovering from serious injuries suffered during the emergency landing five months ago near a New Jersey ballfield that was full of children.
In an interview with Hamodia on Wednesday evening, Mr. Rosenberg, who has been with the Coast Guard for 10 years, and is also a volunteer for Chaveirim of Rockland County and Chesed Shel Emes, recounted the details of the dramatic incident.
At approximately 1:00 p.m. on the afternoon of Sept. 3, 2015, Rosenberg flew out of Lincoln Park, NJ, on a single-engine 1978 Cessna Skyhawk, and headed to Farmingdale, Long Island, where he picked up an observer, Erik Pearson, before they proceeded on a routine Coast Guard patrol along the Hudson River.
Around the area of the Alpine Towers on the Hudson River, “the engine started sputtering, so I turned toward the nearest airport, Teterboro Airport,” recalls Rosenberg.
The plane could have reached Teterboro within several minutes. However, “as we were over Creskill, NJ – around a minute after first experiencing trouble – the engine failed.
“I looked down and saw a big ballfield – it was Brookline Park, right next to Tenafly High School – and knew we’d have to land there.
“But when I came in for the landing, I saw that the field was full of children playing. So Erik and I opened the windows and started screaming at the kids – there was no noise from the plane, as the engine was dead – to move away. However, the kids did not seem to understand what we wanted.”
Determined to land the plane safely and away from the children playing soccer below, Mr. Rosenberg suddenly spotted a small open space behind one of the soccer goals, and brought his plane down there. To avoid hitting the trees surrounding the field while landing the plane, he had to “push the plane” down to the ground, rather than coming in at a normal landing angle.
Once the plane hit the ground, it skidded, smashed into the trees and tore apart.
The impact of the crash knocked Erik Pearson unconscious, and he suffered several fractures in his back.
Rosenberg never lost consciousness and was alert throughout, but he, too, suffered serious injuries. Both his legs were broken, his spine had two fractures, and his head was cut all the way to the skull. But his heroism on that day saved not only his own and Pearson’s lives, but those of the many children on the ground below.
In recognition of his actions, a ceremony was held in Rosenberg’s home on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, in which he was presented with a plaque by Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel. The ceremony was also attended by some of Rosenberg’s relatives, as well as several representatives of Chaveirim of Rockland County.
The plaque has the seal of the Town of Ramapo at the top and reads: “Presented to Yaakov Yosef Rosenberg: For Your Heroic Actions While Piloting a Plane September 3, 2015.”
It is signed: “The Members of the Town of Ramapo Police Department – Presented February 17, 2016.”
Asked how he is currently feeling, Rosenberg answers, “Every day is different. In fact, it changes minute by minute. This morning was pretty good, but this afternoon I’ve been in a lot of pain; the weather actually affects it a lot. I have better days and worse.”
While his head and back don’t give him many problems anymore, Rosenberg is still suffering from his leg injuries. “By now I can stand a little and take a few steps, but then I have to rest.”
Pearson’s injuries required many screws to be placed in his back.
Rosenberg says that he and Pearson each go to physical therapy and pain-management doctors, and are “doing our best to manage the pain while we are recovering. It will be a long road, but, im yirtzeh Hashem, we hope for the best.”
Despite the difficulties, Rosenberg is cheerful and in good spirits.
“Not everyone gets a second chance, but Hashem was good to me,” he says.
Rosenberg also feels a deep appreciation for all the people who have shown concern for him by davening for Yaakov Yosef ben Leah Rochel l’refuah sheleimah.
“I know that a lot of people were davening for me. I am so grateful to all of them, and I daven that they should all have everything good – everyone has difficulties in their own life, and I daven that Hashem should help everyone with whatever challenges they may have.”