Mark Taglianetti, the owner of Mook Print & Design in Island Park, is Air Force-certified in more than 500 repair tasks. From fixing hydraulic systems to changing a tire on an aircraft, as a former crew chief on a C-17 transport plane, he can “pretty much fix anything,” he said.
“Don’t worry, the Air Force has your back,” the 35-year-old Taglianetti recalled telling the driver of a white SUV that had gotten stuck, its wheels spinning, on a Long Island Rail Road crossing in Hewlett during last Thursday’s blizzard. But after he tried and failed to dislodge the SUV by pushing while the driver nudged it forward and backward, it was time to improvise.
Looking around, Taglianetti saw a convenience store nearby, and rushed in. “They were the only place that had their lights on in the area that I could see,” he recounted.
He asked for rope to tow the vehicle, but the shopkeepers were at a loss. Then Taglianetti saw extension cords for sale. He bought three and hurried back out.
Nassau County police were on their way, having received a 911 call about the vehicle shortly after 11 a.m., according to their records. A public information officer reported that the department had contacted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to ensure that no trains would be passing through as they organized a response.
In the meantime, Taglianetti braided the cords together for strength. “I’m used to making things work even without the right tools,” he said. Then he attached one end of his makeshift towline to the front of the SUV and the other to the back of his two-day-old Ford Explorer.
Much to his relief — Taglianetti said he had planned to ram his truck into the back of the stuck vehicle as a last resort to get it moving — he managed to tow it roughly 30 feet to safety.
“It felt like an eternity,” he recalled. “But it was probably only 10 minutes from the time I stopped to when we were moving again.” The ordeal was over. Police reported that when they arrived, the SUV was gone.
Taglianetti said that he followed its driver to the Hewlett post office, where he worked, and the two went their separate ways.
Taglianetti’s girlfriend, Caroline Purr, was on the phone with him when he spotted the trapped vehicle. “We were in the middle of a conversation,” she said. “He was driving in the blizzard and I was worried about him, and then he said, ‘Oh my God, there’s a person stuck on the train tracks, like literally on the train tracks. I gotta go.’”
She asked if the driver was OK, but heard only rustling and muffled voices as Taglianetti, she said, “started doing his superhero thing.”
Afterward, he posted what had happened on Instagram. He wrote that it was only after he returned to his truck and took a moment to reflect that he realized, “My hair froze.”