Beaten Firefighter Is Improving As Investigators Look For Attackers

NY Daily News - September 09, 2009

by Barry Paddock and Jonathan Lemire

An off-duty firefighter brutally pummeled by three people at the Staten Island ferry terminal showed signs of improvement Tuesday as investigators hunted for his attackers.

Matthew Dugan, 34, remained in a medically induced coma at New York Downtown Hospital. But his condition was upgraded to critical but stable after doctors performed back-to-back operations to reduce the pressure on his brain, officials said.

"What a shame," said Charlie Zakian, who has lived next to Dugan's parents on Staten Island for nearly three decades. "I've known him since he was a little baby," Zakian said. "He's a very good guy."

Dugan, who is assigned to Ladder 15 near the South Street Seaport, was attacked after he and his girlfriend had some drinks downtown and were walking in the Whitehall terminal at 1:30 a.m. Monday, police said.

His girlfriend - identified by sources as Sandy Wong, 39, of Manhattan - tripped and fell, prompting two men and a woman to laugh at her, police said.

When Dugan snapped at them to leave Wong alone, the three people turned on him and the confrontation quickly escalated, police said.

Dugan was knocked to the ground and took numerous blows to the head. Though he did not immediately lose consciousness, he was bleeding heavily from the face and mouth, witnesses said.

Dugan, whose father was also a firefighter, joined the FDNY three years ago.