Two, fast-acting Department of Transportation (DOT) workers helped rescue a driver from a burning SUV in a fatal crash July 10, on the Staten Island Expressway. The DOT crew was making road repairs around 8:30 a.m. on the Brooklyn-bound highway leading to the Verrazano Bridge.
“The SUV was traveling in the high-occupancy lane on the left when it hit the wall with such force that it crossed three lanes and stopped near the work zone where we were,” said Assistant City Highway Repairer Michael Sasso, a DOT employee since 2013 and member of Local 983. “It happened so fast. How no other cars were hit is a mystery.”
Sasso and coworker Eusi Pickering, a Local 376 Highway Repairer, ran to the wreckage to find an unconscious driver slumped across the front seats of his Buick. “The OnStar operator called 911 as we worked to figure out what to do,” Sasso said.
The SUV started to leak fluid and the engine began to smoke. Sasso and Pickering raced against time to help the driver. They assumed he was alive as they pulled him from the car. “We decided to move him because we thought he would burn if we left him in the vehicle,” Sasso said. “I had to push past my fears to do what needed to be done to save this man.”
A medical student stopped his car to help and gave Sasso a pair of medical gloves. Together, they started chest compressions.
“Other drivers saw the accident and onlookers did call 911, but no one stopped,” Sasso said. Minutes later the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service Paramedics arrived and rushed the victim to the local hospital. The driver never regained consciousness.
Not knowing whether the man survived, Sasso, who lives nearby, went to check on him. The hospital nurse offered little information, so Sasso took to social media and found the Buick dealership and the man’s Facebook page.
“I contacted his sister and asked how he was doing,” Sasso said. She told him that her brother had a heart attack while driving and was on a ventilator. The next day the man passed away.
“I never experienced anything like this. It is unnerving to come so close to death,” Sasso said. “If he had survived, I would feel better, but I am glad I helped. My first thought was this is someone’s brother, father, husband, son. I had to help. I just wish he would have survived.”
Local 983 President Joe Puleo said, “Mike Sasso helped this accident victim despite all impending danger. I commend his bravery. His efforts to follow up and find the man’s family is an example of the determination and dedication our members show each day.”