2012-02-23 / Front Page / General Stories

Deputy hauls man from burning car in nick of time

4 a.m. accident could have been deadly
Eric Gross

Deputy Sheriff Keith Blessing turned out to be a blessing for a Southeast man early Sunday when the intoxicated motorist became trapped in his burning car after it overturned on Milltown Road in Southeast.

Sheriff Don Smith said the mishap occurred at 4:18 a.m. when the Hyundai sedan driven by Jerry Fortugno, 23, went out of control on a curve in the vicinity of the Milltown Rural Cemetery: "The auto flipped over and burst into flames," said the sheriff.

A passerby called 911 and Deputy Blessing, who happened to be patrolling in the area at the time, rushed to the scene.

Smith said while Fortugno was trapped in the burning vehicle, a passenger, Juliano Vanetta, 21, also of Brewster, managed to escape the wreckage. Deputy Blessing managed to open a door and remove the injured driver as the car became engulfed.

Brewster and Putnam Lake FD personnel responded along with Brewster State Police and three paramedics from the Trans Care Ambulance service.

Both men were taken to Danbury Hospital and were admitted for observation suffering from numerous deep abrasions and contusions to the facial and head area.

Blessing escaped injury during his heroics.

The sheriff said alcohol was involved in the crash: "I anticipate Mr. Fortugno will be charged with DWI upon his release from the hospital."



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