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Nov 14, 2015 10:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Police Officer Saves Man From Burning Car

Southampton Town Police Officer Erik Breitwieser saved a man from a burning car early Friday morning. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Nov 18, 2015 12:01 PM

Minutes after starting his midnight shift on Friday, Southampton Town Police Officer Erik Breitwieser responded to a call that he won’t soon forget.

Within minutes of receiving a report of a motor vehicle accident involving a rollover at the intersection of North Sea Road and Raynor Avenue in North Sea, Officer Breitwieser came across the overturned white sedan. Its front end was engulfed in flames—and its driver was still trapped inside.

“As I came around the bend, I could start seeing the glow, and then I realized the front end of the car was on fire,” Officer Breitwieser said on Tuesday morning in an interview at police headquarters in Hampton Bays.

The 10-year department veteran said he used his expandable baton to break the driver’s side window of the upside-down sedan.

The window shattered on contact, and Officer Breitwieser climbed into the burning car to pull the victim—later identified as 21-year-old Edmundo Soledad-Reyes of Hampton Bays—to safety.

Before he could do that, Officer Breitwieser said he had to use his knife, which he always keeps tucked into his belt, to cut Mr. Soledad-Reyes from his seatbelt and then dragged him from the burning vehicle.

Mr. Soledad-Reyes, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the single-car accident, was transported by ambulance to Southampton Hospital. He was subsequently charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating without a license—charges that were all automatically upgraded to felonies due to a prior DWI conviction, authorities said.

Officer Breitwieser noted that Mr. Soledad-Reyes was conscious when pulled from the burning car, but he did not talk to him afterward. The officer attributed the lack of communication to the fact that Mr. Soledad-Reyes appeared to be intoxicated.

The Southampton Fire Department extinguished the car fire.

Mr. Soledad-Reyes was released from the hospital on Saturday morning and arraigned later that day at Southampton Town Justice Court. He failed to post $2,500 bail and, as of earlier this week, was still being held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

Back at the police headquarters in Hampton Bays, Officer Breitwieser continued to receive pats on the back from other members of the department for his heroic act.

“He’s really humble about this,” Lieutenant Susan Ralph said. “Even though you want to say it’s just part of the job, it’s really an extraordinary thing that he did.”

Reflecting on the call, Officer Breitwieser said his only focus was on getting the man out of the car safely. “I really didn’t think about it—I just went with it,” he said. “My main goal was just to make sure no one was left in the car and to make sure anyone who was left in the car got out safely.”

Rollovers are a fairly routine accident call, explained Officer Breitwieser, who is also on the department’s emergency services team. Still, it is not very often that an officer must pull a person out of a burning vehicle.

“I don’t know how much training you can do to prepare yourself for something like that,” he said. “But we definitely have a wide variety of training that the department gives us.

“It’s still kind of surreal,” he later added. “I don’t think it’s really set in completely yet.”

As for Lt. Ralph, she said that everyone at police headquarters is proud of Officer Breitwieser’s save, stating that it is a good example of how officers extend themselves to help others.

“The officers do something great every day,” Lt. Ralph said. “And to be recognized for something outstanding, something above and beyond—that’s what police are for.”

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Good for you Officer! Wow that is bravery indeed - and quick action. Hats off to you for saving a life !
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Nov 19, 15 2:30 PM
3 members liked this comment
So nice to read a positive story about a police officer!
By Dafsgirl (63), Southampton on Nov 19, 15 4:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
Erik, well done...
By knitter (1690), Southampton on Nov 20, 15 10:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
Good cop!
By LovinLife (57), East Quogue on Nov 20, 15 12:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think you mean Raynor Road
By eolson8 (1), southampton on Nov 20, 15 5:08 PM
nice job!!!!
By rjhdad (73), southampton on Nov 21, 15 6:41 AM
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