Monday, April 22, 2024


WestportNow Exclusive: Westport Theater Teacher and Realtor is Hero in Fiery Car Crash

Kevin Slater says dont call him a hero for pulling a teenage boy from a burning car Friday night on Hyde Lane near Long Lots School.
ғI just did what had to be done, said the 39-year-old Stratford resident who was on his way home from a summer theater program at Bedford Middle School where he is technical director when he came upon the accident about 9:30 p.m..

Kevin Slater says don’t call him a hero. contributed photo

The youth, later identified as Robert J. Paniccia, 17, of Westport, was one of four teens from Westport and Fairfield who survived the fiery crash. They were taken to Norwalk Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
Slater, a 1982 Staples grad and former emergency medical technician with Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service, told WestportNow he immediately stopped to offer assistance when he saw the burning car.
ԓI thought with my medical training I could help stabilize any patients until other help arrived, he said.
Slater said he found one of victims, a girl, already being tended to by other passersby and was told that everyone was out of the car.
He then found the driver walking around somewhat dazed and began to question him about his injuries.
ԓI was thinking it was all over and then someone began yelling that there were four people in the car and somebody else was still in it, Slater said. ԓI ran over but couldnt see anything, but I did hear someone screaming ґsomebody help me.
ғI yelled to anyone to ask if they had a fire extinguisher. One man handed me a small extinguisher and I went around to the front of the car and blasted it a few times to try to get the flames down.

Westport firefighter Tom Arnold looks over a sport utility vehicle that crashed on Hyde Lane Friday night. Kevin Slater, a Westport theater teacher and Realtor, pulled out one of four teens in the car, all of whom survived the fiery crash. Exclusive photo

ThatӒs when I saw the kid hanging half way out of the roof opening. I threw the extinguisher down and ran to the other side of the car and managed to pull him over the top and over a stone wall.
He said he couldnӒt move his legs but he wasnt pinned in the wreckage.Ҕ
Slater said he dragged Paniccia away from the car and by this time the flames were getting bigger and licking at the passenger compartment. Within moments, however, quickly arriving firefighters managed get the fire out.
Slater, who is a Realtor with the William Raveis Westport office, said it was not until later that he realized he was covered with blood and gasoline and that his sneakers were charred.
He said he called his wife who works at Norwalk Hospital, told her what happened, went home and took a long hot shower.
Slater credited his training as an EMT and four years with the Coast Guard for his quick response and helping him get through the ordeal.
I tried to call in sick today,Ӕ he said, But they were busy so I came in.Ӕ

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