Roseanne Kleppsattel, a volunteer firefighter, was returning from her husband’s funeral in the back of a Kings Park fire engine Tuesday afternoon when it hit traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
About 1,000 feet ahead, a five-vehicle accident had temporarily shut down the westbound highway lanes between exits 59 and 58.
Though Kleppsattel and her fellow firefighters had just finished burying her husband, Fred, a former chief of the Kings Park fire department and a U.S. Air Force veteran, they didn’t hesitate to help.
“By divine intervention, or I’d like to think it was Fred’s intervention, we were in exactly the right place at the right time,” Kleppsattel, 60, said of her late husband, who died Sept. 23 of cardiac arrest at age 77.
After learning that three Kings Park fire companies were already at the scene, the Lakeland fire department asked them for assistance, a spokesman said.
Kleppsattel, who wore a blouse and long blue skirt, threw on her late husband’s firefighter’s jacket and stood by with a fire hose as 11 other members of the department assisted EMTs and worked to free a woman trapped in one of the vehicles.
The woman was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.
“When I looked over and saw Roseanne manning the hose line and wearing her husband’s turnout jacket, it was just like Freddy was right there with us,” said Frank Pino, a Kings Park fire captain.
Phil Bates, who worked with Kleppsattel at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said he wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the retired registered nurse had “bent over backward to help others.”
“She was coming home from just burying her husband and there she is standing in the middle of the LIE in her skirt, making sure everybody’s OK,” Bates said. “That’s just the kind of person she is and there aren’t many people like her.”
Even after a “few days of sorrow,” Kleppsattel said she didn’t have to think twice about helping out.
“When it’s in your DNA and when it’s in your blood, you just do it,” she said.
An earlier version of this article misstated the day the accident occurred.