James Rada, Jr.

Frederick County Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Ruopoli is used to seeing accidents after the damage is done, and then reconstructing what happened. However, that all changed in August, when Ruopoli was driving home to Emmitsburg with his family and he witnessed a van and car collide on U.S. 15 North.

“The car cut across the road, hit the embankment, and went up in the air and came down on its roof,” Ruopoli said.

Ruopoli stopped his car and rushed over to the accident scene, while his wife dialed 911. The female passenger had her legs wedged between the seat and door. He managed to open the door and free her legs. He said that she was mumbling, but alive.

Then he saw the driver. The man was hanging upside down in his seat belt; his head was against the roof of the car in such a way that his weight was on his neck.

“He was blue,” Ruopoli said. “His hands, his face, his feet were blue. He wasn’t breathing.”

Ruopoli rushed around to the driver’s door and opened it. A woman who had gotten out of her car to help told Ruopoli that she had emergency dispatch on the line, and they were telling her to leave the man alone in case moving him made his injuries worse.

Ruopoli told her, “He’s not breathing. If I don’t do something, he’s going to be dead.”

Ruopoli’s son began to tell the gathering crowd that Ruopoli was a deputy, which is something that Ruopoli realized that he hadn’t done.

He reached into the car and felt for the man’s pulse. It was there, but something needed to be done to get the man breathing again.

Ruopoli freed the man’s trapped legs and then was able to roll him around gently, relieving the pressure on his neck and lay him out in the car. He then cleared the man’s airway and began chest compressions.

After a while, the injured man spit up a little and began breathing. The color came back into his body, and his eyes began moving.

Trooper 3 landed in the southbound lanes of U.S. 15, and the paramedics placed the man on a back board to transport him to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

The woman passenger and woman van driver were taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital for treatment. Ruopoli later contacted the female passenger and found out that the man had been released from Shock Trauma and was in a rehabilitation hospital. He had to have neck surgery, but he is expected to recover.

If not for Ruopoli’s actions, the man might have died before emergency services personnel could have reached him.


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