An NYPD precinct commander on his way home from work was called back into action when he saw a woman trapped in a burning SUV on a Brooklyn highway, officials said Thursday.
Deputy Inspector Joseph Seminara was heading to the Rockaways after a 14-hour shift at the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday when he rolled up to a multiple-car accident on the westbound side of the Belt Parkway near Canarsie.
“Both vehicles were facing the wrong way,” Seminara, 37, recalled. “Both had sustained heavy front-end damage and both were on fire.”
Putting on his emergency lights, witnesses told Seminara that a woman was trapped in a mangled 2014 Nissan, which had just caught fire. The woman’s airbag had deployed, trapping her behind the wheel.
“There were flames emanating from both vehicles,” Seminara said. “There was obvious motor fuel on the floor. You could smell it. You could see it. So we just sort of went into autopilot.
“I gave her some quick words, told her that she was going to be OK, that we were going to get her out,” he said.
Seminara and a good Samaritan pulled the woman, Rhonda Alexander, 30, to safety from the passenger side.
“With me grabbing our victim and the good Samaritan grabbing my waist, together we pulled her out,” Seminara said. “Because of my position in the vehicle and the fact that she was pinned, without this good Samaritan I don’t think I would have been able to get her out.”
Seminara said Alexander appeared “upset and nervous” when she was sitting in her car with her airbag deployed.
“When we extricated her and got her over to the guard rail she started to regain her composure,” he said.
Alexander, miraculously, walked away from the crash unscathed. She couldn’t remember if her car caught fire or not and never got Inspector Seminara’s name as she left the scene Wednesday night.
“I wish I could have gotten his name so I could thank him personally,” Alexander said. “If he was not there I don’t know what would have happened. I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart.”
A 17-year-old in the car that crashed into Alexander’s was given a summons for driving without a license, police said.
The crash occurred when the teen’s Nissan Altima clipped another vehicle and skidded into Alexander’s lane.
The two cars were racing when they hit each other and collided with her SUV, Alexander said.
“I saw something coming towards me, so I hit my breaks. If I didn’t hit my breaks I would have been hit head-on instead of on the side,” she remembered.
A second later, her airbag exploded in her face — the teen’s car had slammed into hers.
“At first I was like, ‘Am I okay? Am I alright? Is this the afterlife?” she remembered. “Then I noticed my airbag was deployed.”
Seminara said he didn’t think twice about jumping back into action after a long day.