Train track rescue
STORY UPDATED 10-18-17
Off-duty Brookhaven firefighter and retired William Floyd social studies teacher Pete DiPinto, 65, saved a woman’s life from an oncoming train after her SUV ended up on the Long Island Rail Road tracks following a crash.
On Tuesday, Oct. 10, DiPinto and his wife were just settling into bed when, he said, they heard a crash coming from just around the corner. Immediately, they decided to get in their car to make sure whoever was involved was OK. Upon arriving at the scene, he said, he discovered the first woman involved in the crash, who told him she was OK but concerned about the vehicle she struck. He then approached the vehicle on the tracks. Recognizing the driver-side door was smashed and the airbag had been deployed, he opened the passenger door just as the railroad signals began to go off, indicating an oncoming train. Praying her leg wasn’t pinned, he aided her out of the vehicle.
“Looking back on what happened, I am just glad she is OK,” he said. “She was conscious but dazed and didn’t know where she was. I said, ‘we have to get you out now’ just as the lights and bells began to go off. My only focus was getting her out.”
He then took her behind a railroad shed to safety and within seconds the train crashed her vehicle. “We got to safety five seconds before the train hit us and the car was totaled. There was metal flying everywhere. If she had been pinned in there, it would have been a different story.”
DiPinto has served as a firefighter in the department for 32 years and both his sons have served as chief of the department. “Eighty percent of our firefighters in this country are volunteers and I have no doubt that any one of them or any brother, sister or Good Samaritan would have done the same thing,” he said. “I just did a job that had to be done. God was looking out for all of us that night.”
According to MTA police, at approximately 10:25 p.m. an eastbound train struck a vehicle stuck on the tracks just east of the Bellport train station at the Arthur Avenue crossing. South Country Ambulance chief Greg Miglino said that just prior to the train crash a vehicle stopped before the tracks was struck by another vehicle, pushing the car onto the tracks.
“She was obviously in some pain and suffering from shock when he first came upon her,” said Miglino. “He grabbed her and moved out of the way to a railroad building, where he protected her from the shrapnel of the vehicle that was hit by the train. If he didn’t get her out of the way in the way and timeframe that he did, that woman would have been dead.”
South Country Ambulance EMTs checked both drivers and both the train conductor and engineer for injuries. The train, according to MTA police, originated in Jamaica and was bound for Montauk. There were no injuries reported from any customers or crew aboard the train; two LIRR trains were canceled due to the incident. Train service was restored at 11:45 p.m. The crash is still under MTA police investigation.
The woman who was removed from the vehicle on the tracks, Janice Esposito, 43, from Holbrook, was transported to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center for minor injuries to her neck and back from the initial crash. SC Ambulance personnel also evaluated the 40 passengers aboard the train, all of whom reported no injuries or complaints. Esposito, mother of a 7-year-old, could not be contacted for comment, but stated during a press conference that she owed DiPinto her life.
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