MARCELLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — 24-year-old Joe Santora hadn’t even left the parking lot of Marcellus Ambulance after an overnight shift. Now off-duty, what he heard on the scanner he saw up the hill.
Santora recalled, “The screams alone coming from the vehicle, and then the periods of silence, were very gut-wrenching.”
A car was on fire after crashing with a pick-up truck. 19-year-old Trey Michel was trapped inside.
Santoro, a volunteer firefighter, had his deputy chief’s SUV and firefighting gear.
He threw it on, knowing seconds mattered between life and death.
Santoro ran toward the flaming wreckage, where deputy sheriffs were already trying to pull the teen out.
He recalled: “We were just trying to talk to him, have an open line of communication, and that he was being reassured that we’re coming. ‘We’re going to get you out. Keep fighting with us, we’ll get you out of here.'”
Six minutes that felt like forever, but they got him out.
“It was probably one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve ever seen,” the firefighter said. “From the upper leg down, the patient’s pants were on fire.”
A spokesperson for Upstate University Hospital told NewsChannel 9 that the teen is still listed in critical condition.
After the teen was put into an ambulance headed for the hospital, the first responders could then take care of each other.
Santoro said: “I went over to the deputy, who was right next to me, face soot-covered, had tears in his eyes… He reached out and shook my hand. He went above and beyond what anybody could have done there, in normal clothes, street clothes.”
Three deputies were sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation and, in one case, burns and have since been discharged.
Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley said: “There’s absolutely no hesitation on the deputies’ part to try and save that young man’s life.”
A community is praying for 19-year-old Trey Michel. Now, he has a whole new group pulling for him.