Three Suffolk police officers who had just been recertified for advanced cardiac life-support didn't have to wait long to put their emergency medical skills to the test.
Moments after celebrating at a Brentwood restaurant Thursday night, the off-duty officers spotted a man slumped over the steering wheel in his car.
The 23-year-old man had a needle in his arm and was suffering from an apparent drug overdose.
"He was ashen and gray," said James Garside, 42, a Second Precinct patrol officer.
Though the man had a pulse, he was unconscious and barely breathing, the officers recalled in an interview Friday.
Garside said he ran to his patrol car to grab an oxygen-pump device while officers Angela Ferrara, 46, and Joseph D'Alessandro, 50, pulled the man out of the 2004 Mazda sedan.
D'Alessandro, an instructor in the Suffolk police academy, called for an ambulance as Garside gave the man oxygen.
The unidentified man was rushed to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, where he was treated and released, police said. Details on the overdose were not released.
He was very lucky that these officers were nearby, said Dr. Scott Coyne, the police department's chief surgeon and medical director. The officers are part of the department's 18-officer Medical Crisis Action Team and are specially trained to deal with medical emergencies.
Paramedics who arrived at the scene measured the amount of oxygen in the overdosing man's blood and determined that without treatment he probably would have died in a couple of minutes, Coyne said.
It was the second lifesaving moment for Ferrara in recent weeks.
On New Year's Eve, the COPE officer was called to The Paramount theater in Huntington after a 22-year-old man fell from the balcony, suffering serious head injuries.
Coyne said Ferrara aided the man until he could be airlifted to a hospital, where he would recover.
Ferrara joked that the trio of officers were in the right place at the right time Thursday because "we were hungry" and decided to order a second helping of Applebee's appetizer sampler.
When they left the restaurant about 7:30 p.m., the officers' attention was drawn to the Mazda because the parked car's engine was racing and white smoke was pouring out of the exhaust.
The car had been idling and the overdosing man's foot was on the gas pedal.
"If it wasn't for the smoke, we never would have found him," Garside said.