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Suffolk first responders named state firefighter, EMTs of the year

From left, Ian King, Peter DiPinto Sr. and

From left, Ian King, Peter DiPinto Sr. and Shane Sharkey were honored by the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.  Credit: Composite: FASNY

Suffolk County first responders swept this year's firefighter and emergency services provider of the year awards, the Firemen's Association of the State of New York announced.

The organization, known as FASNY, on Sunday presents the Firefighter of the Year award to Peter DiPinto Sr., a 34-year veteran of Brookhaven Fire Department, and EMS Provider of the Year award to Shane Sharkey and Ian King of Southampton Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Sharkey and King last year rescued a man from a burning car in Southampton and DiPinto saved a woman from an oncoming train in Brookhaven, FASNY officials said.

While FASNY president Ken Pienkowski called Sunday's ceremony a "heroes  luncheon," all three award recipients said they were just doing their jobs.

"I was put in that place for a reason," DiPinto said of rescuing the woman on the train tracks. "There was no time to think, just react." 

DiPinto, 65, was at his Brookhaven home on Oct. 10 when the sound of a nearby car crash  led him and his wife, Laura, to Montauk Highway and Arthur Avenue, where a car was sitting on the tracks at a Long Island Rail Road crossing.

It had collided with another car and been pushed onto the tracks, leaving the driver’s-side door heavily damaged and its airbags deployed. DiPinto quickly opened the passenger side door and removed the driver as the railroad crossing bells sounded and gates came down, signaling an eastbound train headed toward them.

DiPinto, a retired special education teacher in the William Floyd school district, sat both drivers in his car until an ambulance arrived.

“It really was about 5 to 7 seconds after getting her out of the car and running off the tracks that the train just demolished the car,” DiPinto said. “It was like an old-time movie: the train barreling down, it’s pitch black, the horn blasting.”

Sharkey and King were at the Southampton department on the night of June 18, 2017, when they heard a call come in about a car that had rolled over and possibly had a person trapped.

As they pulled up to the car on Noyac Road, flames erupted, Sharkey said.

“We pretty much didn’t think twice about it,”  he said of approaching the burning vehicle.

Sharkey, 21, who is now chief of Southampton Volunteer Ambulance and a mechanic for the state Department of Transportation, pulled out the male driver.

Months later, Sharkey recalled, he was working a firefighters' carnival and learned that a man had come looking for the two men who had saved his life. The man wanted to know “if we were around and to say, ‘thank you’ and to let us know how he was doing,” Sharkey said

They never connected, but the response stuck with Sharkey, he said. He was awarded EMT of the Year from Southampton Fire Department a few years ago.

King, 34, a critical care emergency medical technician with the Amagansett Fire Department, said despite all of the CPR efforts he's been involved in that saved lives, he hadn't experienced anything like the effort on the side of the road in Southampton last year.

He used a fire extinguisher to keep the engine flames from spreading while Sharkey worked to remove the driver.

It’s not even anything we thought about, we just pulled up and did what we had to do,” King said. “As much as I do appreciate the award, it’s not like I’m any different than anyone else in the field.”

The awards for the three men's heroism are to be awarded at FASNY's 146th annual convention in upstate Liverpool Sunday night. FASNY, founded in 1872, represents more than 105,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical workers in the state.

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