HAUPPAUGE, Long Island - Police on Long Island say two good Samaritans helped rescue a man from a burning car after he crashed in Hauppauge.
Paul Gross suffered an apparent medical incident and crashed into a tree in front of 837 Townline Road shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Volunteer fireman Stephen Matteo, 31, heard the crash from his residence and rushed to the scene.
"In my backyard, I heard the crash," Matteo told Eyewitness News in an exclusive interview. "I got in my car, and on my way to the firehouse, I rolled up on it. I found an SUV, smoke coming from under the hood."
Matteo flagged down a passing motorist, 57-year-old Edmund Quinones, to help pull the unconscious man out of his vehicle.
"There were passersby...yelling there's somebody stuck in the car, and they were trying to open the front car door, which, from the impact, was shut," Matteo said. "He was trapped behind the wheel. I realized that he was awake, but altered, and one of the drivers that had stopped, I grabbed and asked them to help me reach under his arms and pull him out the window."
Matteo tried to open up the driver's side door, but it was jammed.
"At that point the dashboard was on fire," Quinones said. "And he was about to get burned."
Quinones said he was taking a different route home than normal, but something told him he should go the new way.
"We tried to get him out the first time, it didn't work," he said. "Second time, it worked. And within 30 seconds, the whole truck was engulfed in flames."
Matteo and others provided medical care on the scene until EMS arrived.
"We put him on the grass, and then we moved him over to the second lawn because the flames were really high," Quiones said. "We were afraid something could have happened."
Police say 19-year-old Briana Stettner, of Hauppauge, heard the crash and went into the intersection of Townline Road and Hoffman Lane to stop traffic so emergency vehicles could get to the scene.
Gross, 53, of Mount Sinai, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Quinones said the victim was eventually conscious at the scene and was thanking all of them profusely.
Matteo and Quinones were not hurt, but the heat was so severe that Matteo's watch melted.
"It was a very dangerous situation," Quinones said. "Both of us were putting our lives at risk...but we didn't have time to wait."
The investigation is continuing.