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August 16, 2019

The right place at the right time to save lives


July 22 started out like many others for PEF Fire Protection Specialist Greg Gould, who was on his way to Rockland County for a flood rescue standby, driving along the New York State Thruway.

Greg and Dax

HELPING HAND — PEF Fire Protection Specialist Greg Gould, pictured here with search dog, Dax, stopped to assist accident victims from an overturned car along the New York State Thruway while on his way to a flood standby.

By the time it ended, Gould had helped save the lives of two people.

It’s not every day that lifesaving skills you learn for the job are put to the test. But for Gould, employed by the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control, that day he happened upon a car upside down in a watery ditch.

Gould first noticed a New York State Trooper parked in the median and a tractor-trailer pulled over on the right side of the road. While they initially drew his attention, it was what he saw next that made him pull over.

“I looked over and saw the tractor-trailer driver way over on the right-hand side,” he said. “And then I saw the taillights of a car way over in a ditch.” He tried calling the trooper on the car-to-car system to report the vehicle in the ditch but the trooper was being dispatched to another accident and was unable to assist.

Gould approached the scene and found a dire situation — the vehicle was upside down in swampy water. “The tractor-trailer driver was trying to convince the female driver to get out of there,” Gould said. “I stepped in not realizing how deep the water was. It was waist deep and up to my pockets. I didn’t realize how bad it was.”

Water was beginning to enter the vehicle now, Gould said, and he asked the woman if there was anyone else inside. “She said, ‘My husband,’” he recalled. “I said to the lady, ‘Go with the truck driver.’”

Time was of the essence and Gould went around car, reached in, grabbed the man and was able to pull him out. “I got him up to the side of the road to dry ground,” he said. Gould administered basic first aid to the passenger until the fire department, ambulance, and New York State Police arrived on scene. “It feels like a lifetime when you’re standing there,” he said. “It may have only been minutes.”

Water rescue is something Gould has professional training for but it was still harrowing. “I am fully trained to be a water technician,” he said. “Very rarely do you have a victim in the water where their life hangs in the balance. When I stepped in, I didn’t look at how deep the water was, there was no way to tell. I just thought, ‘I gotta save this guy.’”

After the rescue, Gould shifted his focus right back to work — leaving the couple in capable hands and finishing his trip to the flood standby. He hasn’t had time to check media reports, but as far as Gould knows, the couple he helped rescue are OK. “When I left them, they were OK,” he said. “The car was totaled but they were OK. They were very appreciative and happy to be alive.”

He is glad he could help. “I was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “It’s a good feeling when all of your training finally pays off.”

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