Officers Save Fleeing Suspect From Burning Car After Chase

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Two Westchester County Police officers will be nominated for a lifesaving award for pulling a fleeing suspect out of a burning car after he crashed on Saw Mill River Parkway.

The driver had fled from an attempted traffic stop at a high rate of speed before losing control on wet pavement, going off the road and rolling the vehicle on to its side on the northbound Saw Mill in Chappaqua. He was flung into the back seat and was initially unconscious when his car burst into flames.

Police Officers Niall Nerney and Christopher Duffy used a portable fire extinguisher to slow the raging fire and then broke through the damaged windshield to climb inside the vehicle. The officers rendered first aid to help the injured man regain consciousness, and then pulled him out of the vehicle as the flames spread into the passenger compartment.

Commissioner Terrance Raynor of the Department of Public Safety commended the officers for their actions.

“This suspect fled at high speed on a rainy night, putting himself, other motorists and these officers in jeopardy. Regardless of this man’s reckless behavior, Officers Nerney and Duffy did not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to save him as the flames spread. I commend them for the decisive, skillful and courageous actions they took when every second mattered.”

The incident began on Friday, Dec. 1, about 9:30 p.m., when a Chevy Malibu traveling northbound on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Hawthorne sideswiped another car. The Malibu did not stop at the accident scene and continued north on the parkway. The driver of the other vehicle called County Police and provided a description of the fleeing vehicle.

Nerney and Duffy positioned their patrol car at Grant Street in Pleasantville to observe passing traffic and soon spotted the Chevy Malibu. They attempted a traffic stop near Route 120 in New Castle, but the driver accelerated in an attempt to elude them. The driver lost control of the vehicle about a mile south of Reader's Digest Road, colliding with another car before rolling his over and going off the road.

After he was rescued from the burning car, the suspect was transported by Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps to Westchester Medical Center. Nerney was also taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and cuts to his hands.

A 33-year-old woman and 7-year-old child, occupants of the vehicle struck by the suspect, were also taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation and were released.

During a subsequent search of the suspect’s vehicle, a loaded handgun was found in the car.

The 51-year-old driver of the fleeing vehicle was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon 2nd Degree, Criminal Contempt 2nd Degree, Fleeing an Officer in a Motor Vehicle and Reckless Driving. He was also issued summonses for speeding and leaving the scene of the initial accident in Hawthorne.

The criminal contempt charge was lodged because he is barred from possessing a firearm as a result of a pre-existing Order of Protection.

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