MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Two teenage girls from Mahopac are lucky to be alive today after their car crashed into Lake Mahopac Thursday evening (Nov. 10) and they were pulled from the vehicle by a Good Samaritan who shouldn’t have even been there.
That Good Samaritan was 19-year-old Cullen Malzo who grew up in Yorktown and graduated from Lakeland High School in 2015. His family moved to North Lake Boulevard in Mahopac 18 months ago. He had been a student at the University of Rhode Island but came home last January with the intention of attending Montana State University next fall.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be home at that time, but thankfully I was,” he told Mahopac News in an exclusive interview.
Fire responders arrived at the scene at 385 North Lake Boulevard around 5:30 p.m. and found a 2009 Toyota Matrix floating upside-down in the water. The two girls had already been removed from the vehicle and brought to shore.
Carmel Police Lt. John Dearman confirmed that Malzo was nearby when he heard the crash and dove into the water to make the rescue.
“We got there pretty quickly but he had already pulled them out of the car,” Dearman said. “He pulled them out of a [broken] window. We congratulated him for being a hero.”
Malzo said his family’s home is directly across the street from where the accident took place. He was in his driveway at the time, heading toward his car when he saw a car streaking down the road. The car, both he and police said, crashed right through a utility pole, jumped over a dock, flipped and landed on its roof in the lake. Malzo immediately sprang into action.
“I tried calling 911,” he told Mahopac News, “but I was kind of in shock so pulled up my calculator [on my phone by mistake]. But I called 911 and yelled my address at them and hung up. I shed my jacket and shoes and jumped in immediately. It was really hard to get through all the mud.”
Dearman said that where Malzo entered the lake there was several feet of muck.
“He was covered in mud from head to toe,” he said. Malzo swam out to the car but the doors were locked and he couldn’t get in.
“A woman was nearby and I screamed over to her that I needed a rock to break the window,” he said. But then he realized one of the windows was already shattered.
“The window itself was under all the mud,” Malzo said. “I held my breath for a second and went under. I reached around and just felt an arm. As soon as she felt me, she just grabbed my arm and I pulled her out through the mud.”
Malzo said the girl cried out for her friend who was still trapped in the car.
“I could hear the screaming from before I got them out, which was the scariest moment,” he recalled. “It took me a while to find her (the second girl) in the car. I felt her leg and I immediately started pulling her by the leg. They were both conscious. Once they were above the water and muck, they seemed OK. The only injury was a cut behind the ear.”
Those cuts would need stitches. Mahopac Fire Chief Bill Bahr said the girls were taken to Westchester Medical Center for further evaluation. Police did not release their names.
“They were trapped,” Bahr said. “They were in a bad spot. He definitely saved their lives.”
Malzo said being called a hero is “kind of weird.”
“It felt really weird last night. I got really tired, probably calming down from all the adrenaline. It feels pretty good, but I’m just thankful. It could have been so much worse.”
Dearman said the Toyota was traveling at a high rate of speed, which was likely the cause of the accident. He said drugs or alcohol did not appear to be a factor. He said no citations were issued, but the investigation is ongoing.
Brian Marschhauser, editor of Yorktown News, contributed to this story.