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N.Y. firefighter, stranger rescue man trapped in freezing water after crash into creek

Cortlandville Firefighter Johnathan Alteri was off-duty but got a notification about the crash and rushed to the scene


The driver appeared to be so cold that he couldn’t move and couldn’t get himself out of the truck, said Firefighter Johnathan Alteri.

Photo/Cortlandville FD

Anne Hayes

Cortlandville, N.Y. — Johnathan Alteri was out early Friday morning plowing with his own pickup truck in Cortlandville when he received a notification of a crash nearby and jumped into action.

Alteri, a firefighter in Cortlandville, was just about half a mile away from the pickup that had crashed into a creek near Kinney Gulf Road and Sweeney Road.

The roads were horrible and incredibly slick, Alteri said in an interview with | The Post-Standard. He was the first to arrive after the 5:30 a.m. crash.

“I saw him in his truck and my first instinct was to get in the water and get him out because that water is cold,” Alteri said.

After being in the water for about a minute trying to pull the man out of the truck his legs were starting to go numb from the cold, Alteri said.

The man appeared to be so cold that he couldn’t move and couldn’t get himself out of the truck, Alteri said. He was working on pulling the man out while a bystander who reported the crash stood on top of the car and helped from above.

Alteri dragged the man out of the car and the bystander helped to drag the victim up the bank of the creek. Other first responders arrived and helped pull the man to safety.

The man was rushed into a Cortland County Sheriff’s car to begin warming up and be treated for symptoms of hypothermia, firefighters said. Once an ambulance arrived he was taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center.

They later discovered that the man may have been in the water for around an hour, according to a news release from the Cortlandville Fire Department.

Alteri has not heard about the man’s current condition but said the man was conscious when he was rescuing him.

Although he has never made a rescue quite like this before, Alteri said his training kicked in and he was running on instincts.

“That’s what we are here for,” Alteri said.

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