Car dealership manager rescues elderly driver lost 100 miles from home in New Jersey

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Thursday, December 31, 2020
Elderly man rescued after getting disoriented while driving on highway
The manager of a car dealership in New Jersey jumped in to help after an elderly man became disoriented while driving and somehow ended up more than 100 miles from his home.

FAIR LAWN, New Jersey (WABC) -- The managers of a car dealership in New Jersey jumped in to help after an elderly man became disoriented while driving and somehow ended up more than 100 miles from his home.

Don Chittum has seen plenty of bad accidents from the window of Jack Daniels Volkswagen in Fair Lawn where two highways, Routes 4 and 208, merge.

"It's treacherous," Chittum said, describing the oncoming traffic where he found 78-year-old Frank Carano in his car.

Carano had turned the wrong way heading west into four lanes of eastbound traffic.

His car was stuck on the divider when Chittum, a former U.S. Air Force airman, ran across the busy road to get to him.

"My general manager, he just saved this guy's life without hesitation," Tina Valenti said.

She, along with other employees, watched the drama unfold as Carano got out of his car, but then ran back across the highway until Chittum led him safely inside.

"He was really disoriented," Chittum said.

He's being called a hero by hundreds of people who commented on a social media post about the incident.

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"I just did what I hope anyone would do. This could have been anyone's father and we all need more compassion right now," Chittum said.

Carano's family reported him missing to the New Jersey State Police who issued a Silver Alert.

He was last seen at his home in Dorothy in Atlantic County.

Somehow he managed to drive two hours away before getting stuck on the divider.

The grandfather was disoriented when Chittum finally got him into the dealership, but he was with it enough to know he was in trouble.

"He said his wife gonna kill me," Valenti said. "I felt so bad, he was scared."

Fair Lawn police said this averted tragedy is a good reminder to check on older loved ones and their ability to drive.

"It's up to family to recognize these signs and have that conversation about taking the keys away. They won't recognize on their own it's no longer safe to drive. Check on them because this could have a much worse outcome, like a head-on collision," Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Brian Metzler said.

Carano's wife, Joyce, told Eyewitness News her husband lives with dementia and has no idea how he got to Bergen County.

She expressed their family's gratitude to those who helped rescue him and said they'll be more careful about hiding the keys in the future.

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