Cops of the Week

by Melissa Bailey | November 8, 2006 9:38 AM | | Comments (2)

“All you saw was the hands, shaking.” The Rivera brothers realized there was a burning man inside the burning car.

It was Friday the 13th in October, just about 2 a.m. The brothers, Officers Luis (pictured at left) and David (at right) Rivera were sitting together in a parked patrol car at the end of a dead end street, writing a few reports. They were half-way through a graveyard shift at the Church Street South housing complex.

“We heard a loud bang,” said Luis, the younger of the two by one year. First, he thought it was a crash on the highway. “After a little bit, we kind of smelled some smoke, smelled something burning.

“We went to the top of the hill” overlooking Church Street South. “That’s when we saw the vehicle. It was engulfed in flames.”

The brothers were the first to respond to the crash. They radioed headquarters, and took a quick look around: Before crashing into a cement wall by the Yale School of Nursing, the car had hit a tree, sending limbs splintering across the asphalt.

“It almost looked like a hurricane,” said Luis.

“Like a tornado,” jumped in David (pictured), sitting across from his brother, retelling the story in the dim, cement Church Street South police substation. David, 38, works in narcotics. Luis, 37, works for ID-NET. After hours, they work extra-duty patrol at the housing complex. Always together.

Arriving at the scene of the crash, a witness told them no one had left the car after the crash. The front end had shot up in flames, and the interior was “black with smoke.”

At first, they couldn’t see if anyone was inside. David Rivera peered through the flames.

“All you saw was the hands, shaking.” They broke a window, opened the driver’s door, and yanked the driver out. His sweatshirt was on fire. It burned their hands. They had to set him down for a second — “He was hot!”

They removed the man and threw his burning sweatshirt to the ground.

Was anyone else in the car? Luis Rivera broke the rear window to see. He couldn’t.

“The vehicle was so engulfed that we couldn’t even tell.” They started to drag the man, unconscious, across the street to safety. Half of his face was covered in burns, and his mouth was bleeding.

The officer described what happened next as “something out of a movie.”

Just as they dragged the man away from the car, past the grassy median, they heard an explosion — the car’s gas tank.

“God’s on your side when something like that happens, ‘cause it could have blown up in your face,” said David. By a margin of seconds, the two had saved the man’s life, and their own.

The two escaped with blistered hands, which have started to heal. The crash victim, a 30 year-old man from New Haven, remained late last week in the burn unit at Bridgeport, alive.

In their nine and 12 years on the New Haven force, that Friday was the first time David or Luis Rivera had ever saved anyone from a wall of flames and a life-threatening explosion. They’re not considering a firefighting career, at least not yet. Born and raised in Fair Haven, they’re keeping policing in the Rivera family, bringing the family’s Cop-of-the-Week count to three: Their other brother, Officer Elvin Rivera, was featured in this article for his skills in getting guns off the street.

(To read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(To suggest an officer to be featured, click here.)







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Comments

Posted by: TRACEY SUGGS | November 8, 2006 3:22 PM

I WANT TO SAY THANK YOU TO THE RIVERA BROTHERS FOR NOT THINKING OF THIER SAFETY BUT OF THE YOUNG MAN IN THAT CAR. THE YOUNG MAN IN THAT CAR WAS AND STILL MY COUSIN THANKS TO THEM. FROM ME AND MY FAMILY AS WELL AS THE YOUNG MAN IN THAT CAR CRASH WE THANK SO VERY MUCH WORDS CANT EXPRESS HOW MUCH WE APPREICATE THAT YOU WHERE THERE AND ABLE TO SAVE HIS LIFE. I JUST LOST MY 13 YR OLD SON JUSTUS SUGGS TO A DRIVE BY SHOOTING THAT TOOK PLACE IN JULY AND STILL TRYING TO COPE WITH THAT MENTALLY.I COULDNT BARE TO LOSE ANOTHER PERSON I LOVE. SO AGAIN I SAY THANKS SO SO VERY MUCH ON BEHALF OF MY COUSIN AND FAMILY GOD BLESS YOU TRACEY SUGGS

Posted by: MP | November 21, 2006 10:21 AM

I see these cops working in bad areas and they are good people. Congrats to them. They do a good job.

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