Editor's Note (Friday, April 27): A.J. Hicks, public information officer for New York State Police, said investigators will perform an accident reconstruction, which is expected to take up to six months.
YORKTOWN, N.Y. – A Hopewell Junction man is credited with saving the life of a Yorktown woman, whose overturned vehicle caught fire following an early morning crash on the Taconic State Parkway.
Brian Geary, 30, an MTA employee, was driving to work around 2:35 a.m. Thursday, April 19, when he spotted a car on its side engulfed in flames on the southbound Baldwin Road exit ramp. For a moment, Geary continued with his early morning commute to North White Plains until what he saw registered.
“Holy s***,” he said to himself. “That car’s on fire. ”
Geary, having passed the exit ramp, turned onto the southbound entrance ramp, crossed Baldwin Road, and drove down the exit ramp where 56-year-old Linda Gironda was lying unconscious in a burning SUV. He first called 9-1-1, telling them about the overturned car on Exit 14, but ended his call when he realized that a person was likely still in the car. He tried to open the rear hatch, but that was locked.
“At that point, I climbed up on top of the car that was facing straight up, that would have been the driver’s side rear and front doors,” Geary said. “So, I climbed on top of the SUV and tried to open the doors. They were both locked. That’s when I jumped off of the car and went back to my car.”
Geary was searching for a fire extinguisher in his car. But, when he couldn’t find one, he improvised.
The fire “was my biggest concern,” he said. “The car was on fire and this fire is only getting bigger every second. I needed to try to put this out. I ran to back to my car. I didn’t have a fire extinguisher, but I saw the [baseball] bat. I said, ‘I’m going to have to break a window to get into this thing and get her out.’ ”
After smashing the windshield, Geary pulled Gironda from the wreckage. He and another unidentified good Samaritan then carried her to safety, waiting another 15 minutes for emergency personnel to arrive, Geary said.
“Once we pulled this woman from the car, it was like sitting watching paint dry, watching this car burn,” he said. “It took a long time for [emergency personnel] to get there. There was no way she would have survived if I hadn’t stopped.”
Gironda crashed her SUV after striking a rock wall on the west shoulder of the exit ramp, according to New York State Police. Multiple messages left with the state police seeking more information about the crash have not been returned. The Yorktown Fire Department arrived and put out the fire. Gironda was transported to Westchester Medical Center by Yorktown EMS with serious injuries. Multiple calls were placed to Westchester Medical Center, but information on Gironda’s condition was not provided.
“She was unconscious the entire time, even after we pulled her out of the car,” Geary said. “She really didn’t say anything. She was pretty much just limp on the ground. She was breathing, though. After I got her out, I was trying to keep her awake. She was in and out the whole time.”
The whole ordeal, from the time he spotted Gironda’s car to the time he pulled her out, took 5 to 6 minutes, Geary said.
“I remember it very vividly,” Geary said. “I remember every detail of it, but it did happen very fast.”
Special circumstances put Geary on the highway that morning. Typically, Geary works from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the Croton-Harmon train station, but, because there was a training session that day, the start of his work day was pushed back to 3 a.m.
Geary said he was surprised to see his actions lauded on social media and in news reports.
“I did what I did. That’s it. That’s the end of it,” Geary said. “I didn’t think it was going to blow up and turn into all it has been. I guess things like this don’t happen very often, apparently.”
Geary said he doesn’t see himself as a “hero.”
“If that’s what people want to label me as, I’ll surely take it, but I don’t feel like I’m anything special,” he said. “I did what a good person would do, and I would hope that someone would do that for my mother or my girlfriend or my sister. It’s what a good person should do.”