The 51 year old sales manager and six others were huddled in a Belle Harbor, Queens home during Superstorm Sandy when their gas line blew sparking a fire and forcing them to evacuate as flood water was rising in the street.
He told other tenants in the house and his neighbors on Beach 130th Street to grab extension cords, twine, lamp cords whatever they could find to build a rescue rope. McDonnell, an experienced fisherman and avid surfer, quickly tied them together. McDonnell turned the pieces of wire and twine into a life-saving bridge, allowing them to swim across the street by tying the other end at another home. The strength of each knot would determine if the bridge would get them to safety.
McDonnell followed that line back and forth to carry a half-dozen people to safety.
McDonnell lived out of his truck for a week, spending each day thinking about how this brush with death.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered