Suffolk County police officers and a Good Samaritan pulled three people from a burning vehicle early Saturday after its driver — who later was determined to be intoxicated — hit a concrete divider in Islip Terrace, police said.
Jon Moser, 27, of Shirley had been driving a 2008 Nissan sedan south on Craig B. Gariepy Road at the Sunrise Highway north service road shortly after 3:30 a.m. when he crashed while trying to make a turn, police said.
As smoke billowed from under the crumpled car’s hood, a pair of special patrol officers driving east on Sunrise Highway spotted the smoldering car and radioed the highway patrol.
Highway Patrol Officers Jonathan Abrams, Richard Gandolfo and John McCrory soon arrived, joining a Good Samaritan at the scene as flames flickered under the hood, edging toward the Nissan’s three unconscious occupants.
“There was a little bit of panic,” Abrams said Saturday afternoon at a news conference in Ronkonkoma. “You don’t know if the car is going to burst into flames while you’re standing there like you see in the movies . . . But you have to push that aside and go forward to get the job done.”
McCrory sprayed a fire extinguisher on the car to help keep the flames at bay as the two other officers and the Good Samaritan worked to free the occupants.
“This thing, it didn’t want to go out,” Abrams said of the fire.
Abrams and Gandolfo pulled Moser’s arms, dragging him to safety, while the Good Samaritan pulled out the front passenger.
McCrory was emptying a second extinguisher as the group pulled out the last man, who was lying across the backseat of the car, police said.
“By the time the rear passenger was being removed, the fire was starting to enter into the cabin of the vehicle,” McCrory said.
Lt. David Geer of the department’s Highway Patrol lauded the group for the rescue.
“We know that their actions clearly saved the lives of the three individuals who were unconscious when the officers got to the car,” Geer said.
The Good Samaritan, who did not stay long after the rescue, remains unidentified, police said.
Moser and one of his passengers, John Alver, 21, of Mastic, were taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, while the second passenger, Richard Weaver, 24, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, police said. All three were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries, according to police.
Moser was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and was scheduled to be arraigned at a later date, police said. Attorney information for Moser was not immediately available Saturday.
Joe Rosadio, chief of the Islip Terrace Fire Department, said the car was fully engulfed in flames when he and his crew arrived on the scene.
The firefighters then used water and foam to get the fire under control.
“The fire was so hot that the gas tank on the car ruptured,” Rosadio said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen.”