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Michael Gitto, Class of 2003 Rescues Family from Overturned Vehicle

Monday, September 9, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michael Graziano
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File this one under: "It's never too late to celebrate a good deed." We were delighted to discover that on August 18th, Michael Gitto, from Prep's Class of 2003 helped rescue a family from an overturned vehicle on the Southern State Parkway. Read the full story here: https://bit.ly/2kDcXEn Well done, Mike!

Michael Gitto was headed to a friend’s house to celebrate his upcoming move to Tampa, Fla., but had to put his plans on hold to rescue a family of four from an overturned van.

The 34-year old East Meadow resident was driving west on the Southern State Parkway on Aug. 18, near Massapequa, when he saw the vehicle on its side. He immediately pulled over, followed by two or three other drivers.

As it happens, Gitto, a former volunteer firefighter, carries a seatbelt cutter and window punch tool in his car. Grabbing both, he ran to the vehicle and saw four people stuck inside, with the driver closest to the ground.

Although they alerted police about the incident, Gitto and the other good Samaritans thought it best to get the family out of the van as quickly as possible, in case it caught fire. “At that point,” he said, “we could tell that the family was under a lot of stress.”

The rescuers debated whether to flip the vehicle back onto its wheels, but Gitto warned them against it. “If someone in the car was injured, we’d really risk hurting them worse,” he said.

He tried breaking a window with his window-punch tool, to no avail. Someone else pried open the passenger-side door, and then Gitto climbed on top of the vehicle to start pulling its passengers out. But the woman closest to him was being choked by her seatbelt and couldn’t move.

He used his seatbelt cutter to free the strap from her neck, and locked arms with her before wrenching her out. Then he pulled out the driver and two younger passengers who were in the backseats. “The whole left side of my body hurts,” he said with a laugh a couple days after the incident.

State Police soon arrived, and transported the family to a nearby hospital, where one was treated for minor injuries, officials said.

“The takeaway that I got from this, and that I hope others are receiving, is that there are good people out there,” Gitto said. “If we focus on helping each other whenever we get the chance, then our future looks bright.”

He doesn’t consider himself a hero, he said, but his fiancée, Tamara Caless, knows better. “This isn’t the first time he’s done something like this,” she said. “He seems to be a magnet for it.”

Gitto performed CPR on a woman who passed out at a bar, and, on another occasion, helped treat a man who had fallen off his motorcycle and waited with him for police to arrive.

In addition to the seatbelt cutter and the window punch, Gitto also keeps a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and pepper spray in his car. He learned how to assist in emergencies as a volunteer with the North Bellmore Fire Department in 2009 and 2010.

Gitto, a former resident of Fresh Meadows, Queens, who attended St. Francis Preparatory School, also served in the Air Force, and was an F-16 crew chief from 2004 to 2006. He enlisted in the military when he turned 18, motivated by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Gitto’s service was short-lived, however, he said, because his mother, Nalinee, fell ill with a liver disorder, and he became a reservist in order to care for her. She died about 10 years ago.

“She’s been getting a lot of air time now, though,” Michael said, gestured to his bicep, which sports a tattoo of his mother’s face surrounded by roses.

Gitto is now a liquor sales representatives with Empire Merchants, but has prior experience in real estate. He and Caless plan to move to Tampa on Sept. 5, where he will sell real estate for Adams Homes. “I’m just happy I got to do one more good thing for New York on my way out,” he said.