herald

Wednesday 22 November 2017

The Irish hero of Times Square, who foiled fireball car-bomber

SEARCH: Police see white man leave area on CCTV

AN Irish cop has been hailed a hero after he sounded the alarm about a failed car bomb attack in New York's Times Square.

Police Officer Wayne Rhatigan managed to clear the area and help to have the bomb defused.

Rhatigan, a member of the police's Emerald Society and a mounted policeman, was called by a T-shirt vendor who saw smoke coming from the back of the Nissan Pathfinder which had been parked haphazardly at the curb with its engine running and its flashers on.

The policeman approached the car, saw the smoke and immediately reacted.

"I did a lap around the vehicle. The inside was smoking," Rhatigan told the New York Daily News. "I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second."



Alert

He grabbed two female rookies cops who were patrolling the area. Together, they managed to get hundreds of people away from the smoking car and to alert the bomb squad. The Fire Department and bomb squad rushed to the scene.

Patrolman Rhatigan (47), said he still plans to retire this year after 19 years of service. "Of all the idiots in New York, I find this thing," he said. "I was almost a fireball."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took father-of-three Rhatigan to dinner last night two blocks north of where he quickly moved scores of tourists out of harm's way.

"It's what we do. This is our job," Rhatigan said as Bloomberg hailed him a hero at the Blue Fin restaurant.

Rhatigan said he and his NYPD partner Pam Duffy knew at first sight that the suspicious car, "reeking of gunpowder," meant trouble.

"I saw the ignition running and the hazard lights on. It was kind of parked haphazardly," said Rhatigan, who responded to the scene on his horse, Miggs.

"I said, 'Uh-oh, this is a little bit more than just a parked car and a cigarette in the ashtray.'

"We're very lucky," the mayor said, also extending Rhatigan a hearty 'thank you' from President Obama.

While Rhatigan was reluctant to be called a hero, his wife, Tinamarie Rhatigan (44) said: "Everything he does is heroic.

"He loves the NYPD. He always gives them his 100pc," she said. "This is just another way of him showing it. He made sure everyone was safe."

In the beginning, he was definitely scared himself," Tinamarie recalled.

Daughter Haley and her big brothers, Kyle (15) and Dylan (11) were also worried -- but knew he would come through for his family and for New York City.

"He's always their hero, whether he does something like this or not," Tinamarie said.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who led the city's St Patrick's Day parade this year, told a press conference that if the bomb had gone off it would have "caused significant casualties, a significant fireball".



Terrorist

While the authorities said they were treating the failed bombing -- described as a "one-off" by Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary -- as a potential terrorist attack, they said there was no evidence of a continued threat to the city.

Law enforcement officials offered a more detailed description of the makeup of the failed car bomb, and said they were reviewing surveillance footage that showed a white man who appeared to be in his 40s walking away from the area as he looked over his shoulder and removed a layer of clothing.

Federal and local officials said there was no evidence to support a claim of responsibility issued yesterday by a Pakistani Taliban group that has a reputation for making far-fetched claims to claim credit for attacks.

Detectives were reviewing the video footage which showed a white man walking away from where the Pathfinder was parked and said he was a "person of interest".

The man is seen looking over his shoulder and removing a dark shirt, revealing a red one underneath. The man then stuffed the dark shirt into a bag, officials said.

hnews@herald.ie

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