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State Trooper Hailed As Hero After Elderly Man Drives Wrong Way On Thruway

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TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Deirdre O’Neil gets weepy when she thinks about how close she came to dying Monday.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reports, O’Neil was traveling southbound around 3 p.m. on the New York State Thruway, where a disoriented elderly man was driving for eight miles in the wrong direction, police said.

“It was scary,” said O’Neil, of New City. “It seemed like he was just casually driving on the highway … about 70 miles an hour.”

Joseph Dorcely, 86, of Spring Valley, was lost in his own hometown — the onset of dementia taking a sudden unexpected toll on his memory, said his daughter, Evelyn Michel.

“He dropped my mom off to church, and he couldn’t find his way back home,” Michel said. “So he’s been driving since 6 o’clock in the morning.”

Nine hours later, state Trooper John Devoe spotted Dorcely on the thruway heading north into Orange County on the southbound lane. Devoe then drove past the wrong-way car, found an emergency turnaround and ran out onto the highway to warn southbound drivers of the approaching danger.

“He pulled into the break on the highway and jumped out of his car and jumped in the middle of the thruway waving his hands in the air for people to stop driving or to slow down,” O’Neil said. “And he was risking his own life to try and save all these people, who were coming at him.”

“I knew what I had to do: I had to shut down the lanes and hopefully somehow get him to slow down or stop,” Devoe said. ” … Luckily, everything worked out for the best.

O’Neil had a message for Devoe: “Thank you for saving my life and the life of everyone on that road.”

“I appreciate it, but I’m just out there doing my job,” Devoe told Young. “Any other trooper out here would’ve done the same thing.”

Dorcely also stopped when he saw Devoe out of his car. He was treated at a hospital and released.

State police said no charges have been filed, but they notified the Department of Motor Vehicles about the incident, and it suggested that Dorcely’s license be revoked.

Regardless, Michel said her father’s driving days are over.

“He’s done,” she said. “We’re not going to let him drive again. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

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