Retired cop pulls driver from burning car
Updated 11:43 pm, Monday, July 22, 2013
Joe Della Monica Jr. continues to protect and serve.
Della Monica, a retired Milford police sergeant, was driving Saturday afternoon on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey when the car ahead of him veered across three lanes of traffic, struck a bridge abutment and burst into flames.
Della Monica said Monday morning that he pulled over and ran to the car, which had come to rest against a guardrail.
"I checked to see if there was anyone else in the car," Della Monica said. "He (the driver) had been thrown into the passenger seat facing the wrong way, with his foot wedged under the seat."
The Milford man said the front of the Nissan Murano SUV was on fire and the passenger compartment filling with smoke, so he broke the back window to get in.
Della Monica said that he, an off-duty New Jersey police officer and an emergency medical technician pulled the man out of the car and over the guardrail moments before the vehicle exploded.
"The guy was driving at a high rate of speed, and my wife had just said `This jerk is going to hurt somebody' when he crashed," Della Monica said.
The family, including his wife and son, and his father, former city Alderman Joseph Della Monica Sr., had just crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge headed to Fairlawn, N.J., when the crash happened near exit 166 in Washington Township.
Sgt. Adam Grossman, a public information officer for the New Jersey State Police, said the victim, John Gordnick, 55, of Rochelle Park, N.J., was brought by helicopter from the Bergen County crash site to Hackensack University Medical Center with injuries that are not considered life-threatening. The investigation into the crash was continuing, Grossman said.
Sgt. Brian Polite, of the New Jersey State Police, said both sides of the highway were closed for about 20 minutes after the crash.
But the Milford man wasn't seeking publicity.
"My son has a big mouth,'' he wrote on his Facebook page when friends and family began asking about the incident.
Della Monica, who served in Iraq with the Connecticut Air National Guard and chaired the city's 911 Memorial Commission, said he suffered only minor burns to his hands and some cuts from punching out the SUV's back window.