Southold EMTs, police save motorist who suffered heart attack

05/22/2014 1:25 PM |

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A 58-year-old man who suffered a heart attack while riding in a moving truck in Southold Wednesday afternoon had “somebody watching out for him,” fire officials said  after local firefighters and  police officers happened to be nearby to save him. 

The man — who was not identified by fire officials — was the passenger in a truck headed north on Oaklawn Avenue when he collapsed in the cab just before 12:50 p.m., according to an account of the rescue.

The driver quickly pulled over to the side of Main Road and flagged down Jeff Weingart, a Greenport Fire Department Assistant Chief who was working as a traffic control officer near Southold High School.

Meanwhile, Southold Fire Department EMT Paul Reinckens had been driving behind the truck, and realized something was wrong.

“I was following behind in my vehicle, and I noticed they had stopped kinda short of the stop sign,” he said. “I pulled around them and I saw the passenger hunched over and I knew.”

Mr. Reinckens, a four-year veteran of the department, rushed to the man. He had no pulse.

Mr. Reinckens pulled the 58-year-old man from the car and began doing CPR as Mr. Weingart got a defibrillator from his car.

Firefighter Michelle Salmon was also driving nearby and stopped to assist as firefighter Chris Drum arrived from his office nearby.

“It just seemed like the stars were lined up,” said Southold Fire Department rescue squad captain Chris Manfredi.

The three firefighters and Mr. Weingart continued CPR on the victim and shocked him three times, but he couldn’t be revived.

A Southold ambulance arrived on the scene at 12:53 p.m., just four minutes after the call was sent out. The victim was moved into the ambulance, where he was shocked again. This time he began breathing, said Fire Chief Peggy Killian, who was on the call.

“It was a good team effort,” she said.

Firefighters Ed Boyd, Sue Evans, Renee Phelps, Craig Goldsmith, and Kent Layton, along with Ms. Salmon and Mr. Drum, took the man to Eastern Long Island Hospital.

By 1:13 p.m., the victim was handed over to hospital staff, who later airlifted the man to Stony Brook University hospital.

“Timing was everything in this,” Mr. Manfredi said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the victim is undergoing triple bypass surgery, Chief Killian said. An update on the man’s condition wasn’t immediately available.

Mr. Manfredi — an organizer of the fire department’s CPR classes — said Wednesday’s rescue was only possible thanks to the quick-thinking of his firefighters and their training.

“This just put all their hard work to good use,” he said. “As their captain, I couldn’t be prouder.”

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