Three NYPD K9 officers traveling to say farewell to a fallen police dog saved a wheelchair-bound woman who was trapped inside an overturned ambulette that had crashed on a highway, officials said.
Officers Benny Colecchia, Daniel Rich and Matt Wicelinski on Thursday were on their way to Canton, Ohio, to attend a memorial service for K9 Officer Jethro, a three-year-old German shepherd who was killed in a shootout.
As they drove west on Interstate 80, the officers and their own four-legged partners– Timoshenko, Dallas and Hudson– came upon an ambulette that had overturned on its side along a Pennsylvania stretch of the road, cops said.
The Emergency Service Unit officers quickly sprang into action when they discovered a woman in a wheelchair was trapped inside, breaking a window using a car escape tool known as a LifeHammer, officials said.
Colecchia then used a knife to cut the woman free from her wheelchair, and Rich and Wicelinski carried her out of the overturned van and administered first aid, police said.
The three cops stayed with the woman and continued to provide care until local emergency responders arrived and brought her to a nearby hospital.
The woman appeared to have broken her ankle in the accident, which occurred after the ambulette driver lost control on a patch of black ice, Colecchia told the paper.
He called the rescue, and the memorial that they continued on to, very fulfilling.
“That was very touching,” he told the News.
Jethro, a canine officer with the Canton police who was trained for patrol and narcotics detection, was shot three times after he and his partner responded to a burglary alarm activation call. The robbery suspect was apprehended at the scene.
Though none of the bullets struck vital organs, one round struck the bridge of his nose, which doctors said caused some brain trauma, police said.
His condition worsened and he died a day after the shootout, officials said.
"It is with heavy hearts that we must tell you all that we lost Jethro," the Canton Police Department posted on Facebook.
Colecchia lamented the loss of the dog to the News, saying: “A working K9 dog, it’s part of the family, it’s a police officer. He’s part of the family."