Referee saved after suffering heart attack during high school lacrosse game in Rockland County

Toni Yates Image
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Referee saved after suffering heart attack during lacrosse game
A dramatic rescue took place after a referee collapsed in the middle of a lacrosse game at a high school in Rockland County. Toni Yates interviews the heroes from that day.

ORANGEBURG, Rockland County (WABC) -- A dramatic rescue took place after a referee collapsed in the middle of a lacrosse game at a high school in Rockland County.

Jessica Lappe is the athletic trainer at Tappan Zee High School. For half the year, Matt Irizzary and Christian Florencia, both athletes themselves, are her interns.

"I want to empower them to be able to handle what life throws their way," Lappe said.

Last Tuesday, during a lacrosse game, Irizzary and Florencia learned firsthand the meaning of life and death emergency.

A referee had collapsed on the field. FDNY member Jimmy Sanchez was there watching his boys play, when he saw the referee go down.

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"I kinda like sprinted over to the field ... I noticed immediately he was labored breathing, immediately after that I said we need equipment. Before I knew it I had three people around me," Sanchez said.

Those three were Lappe, Irizzary and Florencia.

"I knew right away when it was a ref and he wasn't moving that we were going to need the AED for sure, that's why I turned on my heels right away and told my boys to grab it," Lappe said.

The AED machine was just yards away. It was a vital tool to shock the referee's heart.

Irizzary and Florencia had been interns for just two days. Talk about a trial by fire.

"i just went in, I barely remember handing it off to Jimmy, it's what jess prepared us to do," Florencia said.

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"Being in a situation that you would never imagine yourself to be in is life changing and really prepares you, and says to you you're ready for any moment that life throws at you," Irizzary said.

Teamwork, training and teaching led to a good save.

The referee was rushed to the hospital. He is a survivor thanks to the FDNY and an athletic trainer with a passion to help and to teach.


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