Good Samaritans Michael Pitre of Commack and Michael Susinno, a Northport teacher,...

Good Samaritans Michael Pitre of Commack and Michael Susinno, a Northport teacher, pose together. Credit: Michael Susinno

A Northport high school teacher, along with several other good Samaritans, rescued his former student on Sunday after she was trapped in a burning car in Fort Salonga, Suffolk County police said.

Just before 6 p.m., a 33-year-old Northport woman was driving a 2021 Hyundai Elantra north on Bread and Cheese Hollow Road when she swerved to avoid an animal in the street.

Her car struck a utility pole just north of Pulaski Road and both the pole and the vehicle caught fire, trapping the woman, police said.

Michael Susinno, the orchestra teacher at Northport High School, said he was driving home after performing in an opera in Commack when he came upon the crash. He called 911 and pulled over after realizing the driver was inside and the front of the Hyundai was on fire.

Another man had seen the smoke from his home and ran in flip-flops to help, Susinno said.

“She was able to share with us that she was in a lot of pain, that her leg was very injured,” Susinno said. “We looked at her and said, 'We're so sorry, we have no choice. We have to get you out of this car, because the flames were picking up so rapidly.'”

Michael Pitre, 29, of Commack, said he was driving south on Bread and Cheese Hollow Road when he noticed the crash, saw in a “split second” Susinno and the other man pulling the driver out of the car.

He pulled over his truck and put its hazard lights on, blocking one of the traffic lanes, before assisting the others in carrying the woman away from the wreck.

About 20 seconds after they pulled her to safety across the road, the car was engulfed in flames.

Pitre, a medical malpractice attorney who has first aid training, said the driver had a serious laceration on her right leg. that “essentially extended below the knee almost down to the ankle” and was losing a significant amount of blood.

The injury was so severe one could see flesh and bone, he said.

One man from the group offered his belt, which Pitre used as a tourniquet.

Susinno said he and two women who had come to help meanwhile spoke with the driver to help keep her comfortable.

He then noticed the driver was not a stranger, but one of his former students. Both she and her twin brother played cello and were very funny kids with a lot of personality and “a very big heart.”

Both Pitre and Susinno said the teacher-student revelation helped her to stay calm, even as all could feel the heat of the fire as the Hyundai’s tires and windows exploded.

The rescue was a team effort, Pitre said, as five people worked together to comfort the victim and tried to help amid the chaos. 

“The big take-away that I had from it is there really are good people out there,” Pitre said.

The woman was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, where she is being treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

Susinno said he is still processing the event, and still feels the intensity of the heat and the smell of the fire. He is relieved his former student is being cared for and that he was there for her in a time of distress.

If there is one message to take away from this, he said, it’s the reminder of the power of music.

“It brings all of us together, he said. “It's just amazing how music can keep you connected.”

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