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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Good Samaritans rush into traffic to save unconscious driver

In an image provided by the Boynton Beach Police shows, strangers rush into a busy intersection in Boynton Beach, Fla., on May 5, 2022 to save a woman who had passed out at the wheel of her car.

By Amanda Holpuch

Laurie Rabyor can remember May 5 only in flashes.

There is the flash of getting help from an emergency medical worker and the flash of being shuffled around an emergency room. But absent from her memory is the most important part of that day, when a crowd of strangers risked their lives to save her after she passed out while driving home from work in South Florida.

Instead, Rabyor, like hundreds of thousands of others, has seen the dramatic rescue only in traffic camera footage that police in Boynton Beach, Florida, shared last week in an effort to identify the good Samaritans who ran in front of her car to stop it as it cut a slow, perilous path through a busy intersection.

At a ceremony hosted by the Police Department on Friday, Rabyor met many of her rescuers for the first time, including the woman who grabbed a dumbbell from her car and the man who used it to break one of Rabyor’s car windows. (Rabyor returned the dumbbell.)

The rescuers were almost all strangers, except for Jannette Rivera, who works with Rabyor and noticed that Rabyor’s car was drifting through the crosswalk, interfering with traffic.

Rivera, 51, decided within seconds that something was wrong, put her car in park, ran into traffic and yelled for help, rousing others to assist.

“I thank God for that woman,” Rabyor, 63, of West Palm Beach, Florida, said in a phone interview Saturday. “I can never repay her.”

Rabyor said she had been fasting in preparation for a colonoscopy and lost consciousness while on her way home from her job at City Shade Co., a manufacturer of custom blinds and shades. She has worked in the drapery department there, with Rivera, for about three years. She said she had been hospitalized for two days after the rescue because she had overhydrated while preparing for the procedure and depleted her electrolytes and other essential minerals.

Rabyor said she had been sitting with Rivera at the ceremony Friday, and when the video of the rescue played, they talked about the man in the hat who had run out in front of the car. Then the man sitting in front of her, Marko Bartolone, turned around and said that he was that man. Rabyor said her introductions to the other good Samaritans played out in a similar fashion.

Rivera, who also lives in West Palm Beach, said in an interview Saturday that her boss had contacted police to see if they had footage of the rescue because the company wanted to honor the people who had helped. She said that when her husband and daughter saw the video, they had told her they were proud but also that she needed to be more careful.

Rivera said she told them, “If I would have lost my life, well then you would be proud of me, because I still saved a life.”

At the ceremony Friday, Juan Chavez Jr., a U.S. Army staff sergeant, said he stepped in to help after he saw Rivera running and yelling about an unconscious person.

The traffic camera footage shows Chavez, in fatigues, running across the intersection as vehicles continued to drive through it. He got in front of Rabyor’s car to help stop it, went back across the intersection to get his car, then returned.

“After I saw the video, I thought, ‘That was pretty stupid,’ ” Chavez said. “So, I got to play real-life Frogger.

“It’s amazing,” he added, “how everyone came together to help someone that was in need without even knowing the person.”

Michael Edelstein identified himself at the ceremony as the person who had run in front of the car and also had tried unsuccessfully to punch through one of its windows. Beyond the main group of six or seven people who surrounded Rabyor’s car, at least 20 others helped by directing traffic, he said.

A little over a minute after Rivera first ran from her car, a man, David Formica, broke open the window of Rabyor’s car with the dumbbell. Another person climbed through the window to unlock the front passenger door, police said.

The group then pushed the car into a nearby parking lot, where a nurse provided medical attention until the Fire Department arrived, police said.

The nurse, Robin Fox, was emotional at the ceremony as she played down her role in the rescue. She said she had come in at the end and taken Rabyor’s pulse.

“It was an honor to see this happen,” she said, “to bear witness in real time to this happening, and I’m so glad that everybody gets to see it.”

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