UPPER DARBY >> One of the police officers who instinctively reacted and rescued a woman trapped underneath a car recalled the split-second decision three days after the accident.
The team effort involved five Upper Darby police officers and two firefighters who lifted the 2001 Toyota Camry off a woman within seconds of responding to the call of pedestrian struck by a car and trapped underneath a vehicle 8 a.m. Saturday at State Road and Harper Avenue, Drexel Hill.
“They really were heroes,” Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said. “Their actions saved her life.”
Chitwood named officers Michael DeHoratius, Rick Russel, Brian Gieder, Matt Lynch and William Redheffer and firefighters Sam Caroluzzi and Deputy Chief Peter Huf for their heroism.
“If they didn’t lift the vehicle off her chest she would have been dead,” Chitwood said.
The pedestrian, a 38-year-old woman, a resident of the 800 block of Eaton Road, was a half mile from her house when she was struck at the State Road and Harper Avenue intersection.
She was transported to Lankenau Hospital and remains in critical but improving condition, according to Chitwood.
DeHoratius, 35, a 13-year decorated veteran, previously employed with Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, and the last five years with Upper Darby Police Department, was one of the first to arrive on the scene.
“I was in the area and got there immediately,” DeHoratius said. “Two other officers (Russel and Gieder) arrived about the same time. We got there quickly, within minutes of each other. She was laying face up underneath the driver’s side frame of the car. It was resting on her chest. She was pinned between the car and the ground. We could tell she was struggling and we all looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s just lift the car and try to get her out of there.’ It was just a group decision.”
According to DeHoratius, an off-duty firefighter (Caroluzzi) was driving by at the time and stopped to help along with Deputy Chief Huf and two other officers, Lynch and Redheffer, who responded to the scene.
“I told the last two officers that arrived, ‘We’re going to lift the car and at the count of three to grab her out from under there,’” DeHoratius said. “It was a great team effort.”
According to Chitwood, the woman had apparently just left her house for a jog in the morning. Police found a filled water bottle and a Fit bit device on the ground at the scene.
“We haven’t had a chance to interview her yet due to her condition,” Chitwood said.
The driver of the vehicle involved was identified as an 86-year-old man who lives on the 900 block of Shadeland Avenue. He was on his way to church and remained at the scene.
“I don’t think he saw her,” Chitwood said. “He said he heard a thud and stopped.
“Right now it looks like a freak traffic accident. I hope and pray she survives.”