ELIZABETHTOWN — Rescuers had to move fast to get Michael J. Rodriquez out of the cab of his truck, overturned in Eagle Lake on Aug. 8.
“There were sketchy moments when the truck started moving (deeper) as we attempted to rescue him,” Chilson Fire Chief Steve Hunsdon said on Tuesday, when he and others were honored by Essex County lawmakers for their efforts.
“His chin was all that was up (out of the water).”
Rodriguez, 40, of Broadalbin missed a sharp curve on Route 74 in Ticonderoga’s Eagle Lake hamlet at about 2 a.m. that morning, causing his big rig to flip over and land upside down in 8 to 15 feet of water.
First there was State Environmental Conservation Police Officer Steve Stubing, who lives nearby and was awakened by loud bangs off in the distance.
“If you’ve heard an accident, you know what it sounds like,” he said. “I jumped out of bed. When I got outside, I could heard a horn blowing in the distance. It was stuck.”
He got into a small motorboat and headed across the lake toward the source of the noise.
“In the dark, I got closer, and I could see a 53-foot tractor-trailer upside down in the water. I got right up to the cab. It was smashed flat.”
Stubing said he yelled to anyone who might be inside the crushed cab, and Rodriguez called back.
“‘You hold on,’ I said. I tried the doors but they wouldn’t open.”
Stubing had already called 911 before he left the house, and soon Ticonderoga Town Police and Chilson and Ticonderoga fire departments showed up.
Rodriguez had to be cut out of the truck, which was slipping deeper into the lake, Stubing said.
“It was really the Jaws of Life (rescue tool) that made the difference. As soon as they got there, they (firefighters) started working.”
Ticonderoga Fire Chief Jeff Burns said the truck moved twice while they were cutting Rodriguez out.
“Had he (Stubing) not gone to see what was going on, it would have been an entirely different outcome. When I arrived on the scene, we couldn’t even see him (Rodriguez’s truck).”
COVERED WITH OIL
Engine oil and battery acid had leaked into the water from the overturned cab.
“He was covered with oil when we pulled him out,” Burns said. “We washed him off on the side of the road, got his clothes off.”
Burns said everyone worked together on the rescue.
“We do what we do, but it sure is nice to get a thank you now and then.”
Supervisor Debra Malaney (R-Ticonderoga) gave everyone involved a certificate of appreciation from the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
“We want to say thank you and pay tribute to each and every one of you,” she told them. “What you do on a daily basis is remarkable. You put others’ health and safety above your own.”
Rodriguez was driving a Logistics One truck loaded with rolls of paper from International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill. A receptionist at Logistics One in Saratoga Springs said Tuesday they didn’t know how to contact Rodriguez, who is still recuperating from a broken leg and other injuries. He was taken to Albany Medical Center for treatment after the crash, then discharged several days later.
Stubing said they were doing their jobs when they rescued Rodriguez.
“I’m no hero. I did what had to be done.”
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