CORTLANDVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Like most snowy mornings, 21-year-old Jonathan Alteri was up around 2:00 a.m. to brave the slick roads in his plow truck.
A few hours into clearing driveways, his volunteer fire radio blared.
Sliding off a hilly curve, a driver crashed his pick-up truck into a creek at the intersection of Kinney Gulf and Sweeney Roads in the Town of Cortlandville.
“It was right in my area where I was plowing,” said Alteri.
He diverted to the scene as the first firefighter there.
“The front of his car was facing this way,” said Alteri. “Upside down.”
The man avoided drowning. His head was just above water.
The rest of his body was under water going on nearly an hour.
The air temperature at the nearby Cortland Airport was around 32 degrees.
Alteri knew he had one option: “I went for it.”
He was wearing only a sweater, jeans and work boots.
“It’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Alteri pulled the man, with only minutes to live, through the door of the vehicle and got him to deputies who used ropes to pull him up the bank.
Cortlandville Fire District Deputy Chief, Mike Biviano, said: “All your arms, legs start retracting to your body to get closer to your core to keep you warm. His arms were close to chest. Legs circled up close to chest. He wasn’t shaking. Usually a bad sign.”
The firefighters get basic water training. The rest, the deputy chief says, was Alteri’s instincts and bravery.
“Jonathan did great work,” said Biviano: “If it wasn’t for him, the outcome would be a whole lot different.”