It’s often said during times of tragedy to look for the helpers. That’s exactly what I&M Safety and Health Manager John Albrizio was for survivors of a deadly car crash.
“I had just finished for the day and left our work area in Elkhart. I normally don’t take the Indiana Toll Road home, but for some reason I did that day,” Albrizio said.
Earlier this month, Albrizio witnessed a semi-truck strike two vehicles on the Indiana Toll Road in St. Joseph County. According to witnesses and the Indiana State Police, traffic was slowing down due to a nearby construction site when the semi-truck driver didn’t slow down and crashed into a group of five cars, sending vehicles flying left and right – even into oncoming traffic. Two people were killed and five others injured.
Albrizio remembers seeing one vehicle burst into flames and another being hit so hard it spun in a circle, landing in the middle of the grassy median where it was hit by another vehicle.
“I just felt an overwhelming, heart-pounding feeling and I pulled off the road,” Albrizio described. “I stopped, put on my strobe lights and hazards on my I&M truck and just ran toward all the chaos. It was at that moment, I heard the screaming and the roar of the fire.”
Alongside Albrizio, running toward the chaos, was a semi-truck driver. Together, they went to the burning car. But, the flames were too intense. So, Albrizio went to one vehicle and the truck driver to the other to render first aid.
“I came up to the car looked around and approached the driver side. Pulling the air bag away, I introduced myself to the driver and started the process of asking questions and evaluating injuries,” Albrizio said. “The driver was fine, but a bit shook up and was able to move.”
Albrizio helped the driver out of the vehicle and then it was on to the passenger.
“I ran over to passenger side, evaluated a lady and by the grace of God she was in pretty good shape. The passenger door, I couldn’t get open for the life of me. I was chewing away at pieces of metal with no success,” Albrizio described.
While trying to help the injured woman out of the vehicle, the fire on the other nearby car was raging and explosions were happening. Albrizio knew he had to get the injured woman out of the car and both people away from a dangerous situation. He helped the woman get out through the driver side door.
“Her right leg was hurt pretty badly. She was able to stand up and I carried her weight on my shoulder and we walked from the vehicle to my work truck, slowly,” Albrizio said.
At his truck, Albrizio was able to keep the man and woman safe. The woman went into shock, and he gave her water and a sweatshirt. He stayed with the two until an ambulance arrived to take them to the hospital.
“It really saddens me we couldn’t get the person out of the burning car,” Albrizio said. “However, I did witness ordinary people doing whatever they could trying to help.”
Albrizio has years of training for being exposed to dangerous and hazardous conditions. He was a high angle rescue tech, where he would go into unknown situations and help remove people safely. Albrizio was also on the Porter County HAZMAT team.
“Safely, do whatever you can to help. Whether that’s calling 911, helping at the scene, even bringing water or blankets,” Albrizio said. “Just don’t look the other way, because you never know how your act of kindness might inspire someone else down the road.”