BELLPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — An off-duty firefighter is being credited with saving a woman’s life after her SUV ended up on Long Island Rail Road tracks following a crash with another vehicle.
It happened around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Arthur Avenue crossing near Bellport. Volunteer Brookhaven firefighter Pete DiPinto Sr., who lives nearby, heard a car crash while he was getting ready for bed.
The driver, Janice Esposito, was turning when another vehicle hit the passenger’s side, sending her car into the tracks, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.
“I had no idea I was on the train tracks or that a train was even coming,” she said.
That’s when DiPinto came to her aide, pushing the airbags aside to get to her.
“She said she had no idea where she was and I said, ‘You’re on the tracks — we gotta get you off now,'” Dipinto said. “I had no idea the train was coming at that moment.”
He pulled Esposito across the passenger seat, dragging her to safety. About ten seconds later the train slammed into the vehicle. They hid from flying shrapnel behind a silver utility shed.
“It was an explosion, literally,” he said. “It was an explosion of twisted metal, smoke.”
“Last night, the hero arrived in pajamas, not in a fire truck,” said South Country Ambulance Chief of Dept. Greg Miglino.
Espostio, a mother of a 7-year-old boy, suffered only a few bumps and bruises, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
“I can never repay him for this,” she said. “I have a family. He saved my life.”
DiPinto’s wife of 44 years, Laura, went to the scene with him. As the train roared through, all she could do was watch.
“I didn’t even know if my husband was safe at that point,” she said.
The train conductor, engineer and the other driver were all uninjured.
The incident impacted service on the Montauk Branch for a time Tuesday night, but service was restored overnight.