More than a year after first responders hurried to the corner of Hempstead and North Village avenues to aid a woman who had been struck by a vehicle, the Nassau County Fire Commission honored the Rockville Centre Fire Department for helping save her life.
On March 31, 2016, Loretta Penn, 62 at the time, was crossing the street when the driver of an SUV made a left turn and did not see her. The nanny, who had a stroller carrying a nine-month-old baby, pushed the carriage away before being struck. She was pinned underneath the front of the car and was in critical condition.
“The way she was trapped under the car, if you had moved the car, you would have dragged her with the car,” said Rockville Centre Fire Chief Brian Cook, who was serving as first assistant chief at the time. “Basically from the neck down, [she] was wedged underneath the car.”
Rockville Centre Police Officer Dominic Scicutella remembered getting the call, and said he and a few other officers were among the first on the scene.“When we all got out and we got to the car, she was under the car and you could see her face was blue,” he said. “She wasn’t breathing.”
Police officers and even some bystanders — about 10 or 15 in total — lifted the car slightly and pulled her forward just enough to allow her to start breathing again. She did, and though her face returned to a more normal color, she was not conscious, according to Scicutella.
“We used the method of just strength and dire need,” recalled Scicutella. “Everybody went all the way around each side of the car and lifted as hard as we could.”
The fire department arrived shortly after, using the “jaw of life” tool to further lift the vehicle and block cribbing to stabilize the SUV while it was raised. Once the car was high enough, firefighters crawled under the vehicle to disentangle Penn from its undercarriage and remove her.
“The adrenaline kicks in and you don’t really think about anything other than what you’re trained to do until after the fact,” Cook said. “As soon as we saw what the situation was, we kind of kicked into what equipment we were going to need to free this person.”
Penn was transported to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside and, according to the department, is still recovering from her injuries. Penn had two fractured legs, a head injury and massive internal bleeding, and according to Cook, she also suffered burns from the car’s engine. The infant, according to news reports, did not have any serious injuries.
Penn’s family declined to comment on the incident for this story.
“After the incident’s over, we all talk about it and kind of debrief each other and talk about what we did right, if there was anything we could’ve done better, and kind of make sure that everybody is OK after seeing something like that,” Cook said. Speaking of the unit citation for the department’s efforts, he added: “It’s nice being recognized for what we do.”