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'Truly Guardian Angels': Off-Duty Police Officer And Firefighter Rescue Woman From Burning SUV On LIE

LAKE RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - An off-duty Suffolk County police officer and off-duty volunteer firefighter saved a woman's life after her vehicle flipped over and caught fire on the Long Island Expressway Wednesday.

The wreck happened at around 10:50 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of the LIE near exit 60.

Melissa Ortiz's Ford Expedition crashed with a National Grid vehicle. Ortiz's vehicle flipped over and caught fire.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported, the raging flames engulfed the overturned car as it sat on the LIE.

Suffolk County police officer Thomas Mutarelli, who was in uniform but off-duty, and Jeffrey Dupoux, a volunteer firefighter with the Elmont Fire Department, stopped to help make a rescue.

There wasn't much time, said Mutarelli.

"She was trapped inside and someone from outside said the vehicle was on fire. We had no time to put the fire out," Mutarelli said. "If we weren't there, we don't know what would have happened.

"As we were pulling her out, it started to grow, so it was basically on fire when we arrived on scene," said Dupoux.

Shortly after they pulled her out of the vehicle, it was completely engulfed in flame.

The men said Ortiz was speaking as they rescued her.

"Shock, total shock. She didn't realize what happened," Mutarelli said.

Ortiz, 23, and Frederick Foote, the driver of the National Grid vehicle, were both taken to Stony Brook Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini praised the two as being "truly guardian angels."

"They were at the right place at the right time and performed an act of courage that saved a life," Sini said. "This is truly an act of bravery and professionalism."


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