The instinct of most people in the face of a fire, understandably, is to run away. Southampton Town Police Officer Erik Breitwieser is not like most people.
When he arrived on the scene of an overturned car in the hamlet of North Sea on November 13, 2015, he saw a vehicle on fire, an unresponsive driver trapped in the wreck, doors that would not open — and a human life hanging in the balance.
So the officer headed straight toward the flames, smashed a window with his baton, climbed into the car through the broken glass, unsheathed his knife, severed the seatbelt and freed the trapped victim and pulled him to safety, just seconds before the car became fully engulfed in flames.
In honor of Officer Breitwieser’s life-saving heroics, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming awarded him with a “Proclamation for Heroism” when the legislature met in Hauppauge on April 12. Ms. Fleming also presented two other Southampton Town police officers with citations for bravery, courage and altruistic actions, which also resulted in the saving of lives.
Police Officer Kristian LoRusso was honored for reviving a 1-year-old infant in Westhampton who wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse in a February 3 incident in which he performed rescue breathing and chest compressions that saved the child.
And Police Office Keith Phillips was cited for reviving a 39-year-old man who was lying in the road near the bus stop at the Riverside County Center, unconscious and suffering agonal respirations due to a heroin overdose in a January 16 incident. He administered a hydrochloride injection and the man regained consciousness.
“I am proud to have an opportunity to bring attention to the courageous and professional work of these three officers, and to give them the recognition they deserve,” said Ms. Fleming during the presentations. “We are fortunate on the East End to be served by outstanding local police departments.”
Southampton Police Chief of Department Robert Pearce and Southampton Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Kevin Gwinn also heaped praise on the trio: “I am extremely proud of Officers Breitwieser, LoRusso and Phillips for their life-saving efforts,” said Chief Pearce.
Added Officer Gwinn, “The effort of these three police officers is a testament to the high caliber of policing in Southampton Town and on the East End of Long Island.”
– reporting by Douglas Feiden