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Firefighter who helped evacuate hundreds on 9/11 dies from cancer at 45

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The 'Tribute in Light' rises above the skyline of Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2017, in New York City. Thomas Phelan, who was exposed to toxins during the attack on New York City's World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, while helping to rescue survivors, has died of cancer. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A man who was exposed to toxins at New York City's Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, while helping to rescue survivors, has died of cancer. He was 45.

At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Thomas Phelan was a ferry captain for the Circle Line Statue of Liberty ferry cruises. He used his ferryboat to evacuate hundreds of people who were fleeing from Lower Manhattan after the twin towers at the World Trade Center were hit.

The NYC Fire Wire Facebook page posted that Phelan “brought supplies, rescue workers & was a huge part of the operation.”

After the attack, Phelan became a firefighter and joined the New York Fire Department. During his time there, he was promoted to marine pilot and assigned to Marine 9 on Staten Island.

Phelan’s friends and unnamed officials told the New York Daily News that they blamed the toxins he breathed in on 9/11 for his cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is not uncommon among 9/11 survivors. Thousands have died of cancer, which is suspected to be linked to carcinogens and toxins from the site.

The World Trade Center Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that many heroes and survivors of the attacks on the World Trade Center “confront 9/11-related health issues such as asthma, GERD, post-traumatic stress, even cancer.”

The program adds: “It is estimated that over 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants, risks of traumatic injury, and physically and emotionally stressful conditions in the days, weeks and months following the attacks. Common 9/11 conditions include chronic cough, asthma, sinus congestion, certain cancers, stress-related disorders, and depression among the many other symptoms and conditions.”

Phelan died on Thursday. His funeral will be held Tuesday in Brooklyn.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted out a tribute for Phelan on Sunday. “In our city’s darkest hour, @FDNY firefighter Thomas Phelan’s heroism saved hundreds of lives. We will never forget his service and his sacrifice.”

New York state Sen. Martin Golden tweeted that “Thomas will always be remembered as a true New York City hero.”

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