Bell Atlantic Employee, Victor Diaz, Wins Award for Heroism

Bell Atlantic Employee, Victor Diaz, Wins Award for Heroism

Technician's Quick Thinking Saved 12 People in '96 Blaze

September 11, 1997

Media contacts:

John Bonomo


NEW YORK--When Victor Diaz saw people trapped in a burning Harlem

building one day in March 1996, he used his backhoe to save the

lives of 12 people, including seven children. Today (9/11),

the Bell Atlantic employee will be awarded the prestigious Theodore

N. Vail Medal for Public Service in recognition of his quick

thinking and heroic actions.

Diaz, a 49-year-old construction equipment operator for Empire City

Subway, a Bell Atlantic subsidiary, will receive the Vail Award at a

luncheon (11:30 am) in his honor at Bell Atlantic headquarters at

1095 Avenue of the Americas (at 42nd Street) in Manhattan. He is the

first winner of the prestigious Vail Award since Bell Atlantic merged

with NYNEX last month. He has worked for the company for 26 years.

The award, named in honor of the first president of the Bell System,

recognizes telephone industry employees who have demonstrated heroism

and unusual merit in the course of doing their job.

"Victor Diaz showed tremendous personal courage, skill, judgment and

resourcefulness," said Arnold Eckelman, group president for the Bell

Atlantic Network Group. "His actions epitomize the qualities that

Bell Atlantic stands for, so it's appropriate that we award him the

highest honor our company can bestow."

On March 12, 1996, Diaz was excavating part of the intersection of

127th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem so other telephone

technicians could upgrade cables in the area. The Yonkers resident

and father of three became an instant New York hero when he used his

backhoe to lower 12 people from a fire near where he was working.

Diaz said that once he heard a woman's screams, he turned his backhoe

toward the building, which already was engulfed in flames. He said

that several people were on the ledge of the structure, and were

beginning to panic because they could not free the fire escape ladder.

He raised the bucket part of his backhoe up to the second floor of

the building and brought six people down to safety. Quickly, he

again raised the arm of the backhoe back to the second-floor ledge,

enabling another six people to be lowered to safety. Seven other

people, including three firefighters were injured in the blaze.

After his valiant acts for the day, Diaz returned to work.

Diaz' heroics received widespread media attention from New York

City's newspapers and radio and television stations. He was the

first private citizen to receive the "Caring New Yorker Award" from

New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco.

The new Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic

and NYNEX - is at the forefront of the new communications,

information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone

access lines and 5.5 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell

Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice

and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the

world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic

companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth

global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21


(Note to reporters and editors: Victor Diaz will be available for

interviews during the afternoon of Thursday, September 11. Please

call 212 395-0500 to arrange an interview.)