BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Neighbors joined forces in a life-saving effort this week, after an unmarked police squad car collided with a church van in Brooklyn.
As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported, Good Samaritans stepped in to pull the accident victims from the fiery vehicles.
The accident happened around 11 p.m. Tuesday on Belmont Avenue near Essex Street. Neighbors said the unmarked NYPD squad car was in the middle of a pursuit when it broadsided the church van.
The van was carrying three off-duty auxiliary officers, while two police officers were inside the unmarked police vehicle, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
“There was a cop car — detectives speeding down Essex — and there was a church, like a white church bus, and it just, it ran — they crashed into each other — and it just lighted on fire — both of them,” said Good Samaritan Jesvelee Lopez.
Jesvelee Lopez and several others — including her brother, Juan Lopez — ran to the van and police sedan to help get the victims out.
“I saw the guy. I didn’t know he was an officer. He was injured,” Juan Lopez said. “When I grabbed him, he said, ‘Wait, wait,’ but then I looked in front of the car and it was on fire, so I said, ‘The car is on fire,’ so I just pulled him out.”
Those in the van were able to get out on their own.
Deneize Warner lives just a few feet away from the scene, and as she went door to door getting people out of the building. She could not believe the Good Samaritans running toward the wreckage.
“Normally, when you see fire, you run away,” Warner said, “but they ran to it to get those people out.”
No one even knew they were helping New York’s Finest until a baton fell out onto the street.
Witness Dale Robertson said everyone was running to help, and this was community at its finest.
“This night, everybody came together,” Robertson said, adding that if the Good Samaritans had not jumped in, “we would be going to a lot of funerals.”
On Wednesday afternoon, debris from the accident remained at the scene and was expected to be cleaned up within the week. But it will be a long, long time before the neighbors in the community will ever forget how they came together to save lives.
The three occupants in the church van were transported to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center with minor injuries. The two officers were transported to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, with non-life threatening injuries.
All of the accident victims were expected to recover from their injures.
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