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Tolling Points

Acts of Courage, Quick Thinking and Action

Bill Cramer

Last week, IBTTA veteran James Fortunato gave us one more reason to be proud to be part of the tolling industry.

Fortunato, Vice President and Chief of Operations for Bridges and Tunnels at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), was driving to work along the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge when he saw the aftermath of a chain reaction truck crash that left six people injured, one of them clinging to life. A Porsche Boxster had lost its clutch, crashed into a garbage truck, and caught fire.

The outcome would have been even worse if Fortunato hadn’t intervened.

“Fortunato suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation as he pulled the truck’s driver out of the vehicle, then crawled underneath it to affix the winch so the truck could pull it from the railing of the bridge,” the Staten Island Advance reported July 22.

“As I’m rolling up, I see flames underneath the truck,” Fortunato told the Advance, “and there are two people trapped in it.” Fortunato and two Bridges and Tunnels officers, Jimmy Moy and John Esposito, tried to fight the fire with extinguishers, but “underneath, there was some kind of fuel line break. It kept re-igniting the flames,” Moy said.

NYC Bus Operator Bill Hayes, who took this photo, provided the fire extinguisher before fire trucks arrived and helped free the man from the burning truck. (Photo via Staten Island Advance/Bill Hayes)

After the driver was out of the vehicle, Fortunato saw that the passenger was trapped against the guardrail, her exit blocked, her clothes and hair on fire. “I said, ‘I’ve got one shot at this,’” he recalled. “Who would think that a garbage truck would be a rescue vehicle?”

Afterwards, Fortunato’s first thoughts were for the passengers and his team. “I’m agonizing over her condition but I would be agonizing worse if I stopped,” he said of the critically injured passenger. As for Moy and Esposito, “my guys were unbelievable,” he told the Advance. “They were right there.”

Anyone who works for a tolling agency knows that it’s a 24/7 commitment, and one of the industry’s claims to fame is its ability to save lives by delivering safer roads. It isn’t every day that we get to demonstrate that commitment in such dramatic fashion. But when the moment came, Jim Fortunato delivered. And for that, he deserves our admiration, our applause, and our thanks.

L-R Officer John Esposito, MTA Vice President and Chief of Operations for Bridges and Tunnels, James Fortunato, and Officer Jimmy Moy worked with passersby to help save a woman from a burning truck crashed on the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. (Photo via MTA Headquarters/Associated Press/Staten Island Advance)


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