Michael Bivona, Jr. had been on his way to visit an uncle in Wilton on Oct. 30, when at about 5:35 p.m. he was struck head-on on Silvermine Road.
The 18-year-old remembers nothing of the horrific four-car crash, knowing only that he would have died had it not been for a difficult, careful extrication led by eight New Canaan firefighters.
Until Tuesday night, he’d never met them.
“It’s a miracle that I am here and I can’t thank them enough,” Bivona, Jr. said during a moving ceremony at Lapham Community Center attended by about 100 people, where the firefighters received a unit citation for their life-saving actions.
“It’s truly very, very, very emotional to actually see them all lined up, the people who saved my life,” Bivona Jr. said. “It’s insane, seeing the car every day and knowing that I was in that car, and knowing that these gentlemen saved my life. It is just a miracle.”
Fire Commissioner Jack Horner—during an evening that also featured swearing-in ceremonies for new and promoted firefighters, a new commissioner, retiring deputy fire marshal and special commendations—read out a summary of the Oct. 30 events by way of honoring the following men (article continues below):
- Capt. John Raidt
- Lt. Tony Ryan
- Firefighter John Aniello
- Firefighter Jason DeVivo
- Firefighter Dave DiPanni
- Firefighter Edward Karl
- Firefighter Jim Pickering
- Firefighter Paul Wilson
Arriving at Silvermine in the area of Clapboard Hill Road, Engine 1 and Rescue 5—together with the New Canaan Police Department and New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps—found four vehicles involved in a heavy collision, with three off the road, Horner said.
“Two of the drivers were able to self-extricate from their damaged cars without assistance,” he said. “There were drivers trapped in the other two vehicles. The first extrication was relatively simple. An SUV was lying on its passenger side in the woods against a tree. A team stabilized the SUV with tools we use so that it would not roll over any further, and then assisted the driver in self-extricating, through the driver’s door window.”
Bivona Jr. was in his compact car off the road and on sloping ground. Firefighters used hydraulic cutters and removed the car’s roof and front doors.
“The driver was pinned in his seat by the crushed car side panels, deformed drivers’ seat and crushed dashboard,” Horner said. “His feet were also entangled by the twisted metal of the car’s firewall.”
Ultimately, Bivona Jr. suffered torn ligaments in his ankles, broken femur, seven broken ribs, broken collarbone, broken elbow, stretched ligaments in his neck, lacerated liver, damaged spleen and punctured lung. (A lawsuit is likely.)
“The extrication process was long and slow, so as not to add to any of the driver’s injuries,” Horner said.
NCVAC began stabilizing Bivona Jr. while he was still trapped, and Norwalk Fire Rescue also helped with the extrication.
“The car was so heavily damaged, it was difficult to pry and cut metal to free the driver,” Horner said.
But the team of emergency responders succeeded in doing just that, and at 6:15 p.m. he was freed and transported by NCVAC to Norwalk Hospital.
“Put very simply, ladies and gentlemen, these men saved the driver’s life, and we can’t thank them enough,” Horner said.
Slight and soft-spoken, miraculously upright though moving somewhat gingerly, with scars visible beneath on his face, Bivona Jr. had entered the room to applause and spent time speaking to each man who helped save his life.
“The pain hurts, and I struggle in the cold, it kills me with the rods in my body, but I am getting through it,” he said.