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After car smashes into shop, police and bystanders save baby trapped underneath: ‘Nothing short of heroic’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 7/26/2021 Jaclyn Peiser

Wading through shards of glass and mangled chairs on Friday morning — just moments after a dark blue sedan smashed through the middle of a barbershop in New York — a police officer made a shocking discovery: An infant was pinned underneath the car.

“Grab the baby!” Rocco Fusco, an officer with the Yonkers Police Department, can be heard shouting in body-camera footage as he and at least three bystanders gripped the base of the roughly 2,600-pound Hyundai Elantra and lifted.

Officer Paul Samoyedny, who first spotted the infant, reached for the child and yelled, “I got it! I got the baby.”

Moments before the chaotic scene, police say an intoxicated driver barreled into a 36-year-old woman holding her 8-month old daughter as they crossed the street. In the collision, the two ended up on the hood as the car drove through the front of Dmitriy Barber Shop, surveillance video shows.

Police identified the driver as David Poncurak, 43, and on Friday they arrested and charged him with vehicular assault and drunken driving. Poncurak did not have a license, police said in a news release.

Inmate records show Poncurak remains in Yonkers City Jail. His next court date is Aug. 6. It is unclear who is representing him.

The incident began just before 8:30 a.m. on Friday in the city just north of the Bronx. Surveillance footage shows a dark blue Elantra picked up speed as it rounded the corner at an intersection. After briefly running over the sidewalk, the car suddenly veered left and hit the bumper of a parked white sedan, causing it to roll forward and hit another car.

Simultaneously, the 36-year-old woman, who has not been identified by police, crossed the street as she held her daughter. Video showed the woman spot the car behind her just after it hit the white sedan.

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She started running as the car sped toward her. Within one second, the car rammed her from behind, carrying her belly-up on top of the car’s hood as she clutched her daughter. The car then pummeled through the barbershop’s glass door and windows.

Officers Fusco and Samoyedny were grabbing breakfast at a bagel shop next door when they heard the thunderous crash, police said. They rushed to the barbershop to investigate.

Hearing shrieks and sobs, Samoyedny could see the mother sitting on a bed of glass before the now-mangled car hood. She was covered in motor oil, and blood was running down her arm. The child, though, was not immediately fully visible.

“We got a baby under the vehicle!” Samoyedny said over his radio, according to the body-camera video.

Fusco and the bystanders then lifted the car, allowing Samoyedny to grab the child, whose Minnie Mouse dress was soaked in oil. The baby could be heard crying as Samoyedny lifted her to safety.

The mother and infant were taken to a trauma center, police said. The mother has a serious femur fracture, while the daughter fractured her skull and has third-degree burns on her back and foot.

“It’s honestly a miracle that both of them survived — very strong mom and an even stronger little infant,” Fusco said in an interview with WABC.

Police detained Poncurak and an unidentified woman who was in the passenger seat during the crash. After finding alcohol in the car, investigators tested Poncurak’s blood alcohol content. He was then arrested. It’s not immediately clear whether the passenger was also taken into custody.

Yonkers Police Commissioner John J. Mueller lauded officers Fusco and Samoyedny for their lifesaving reactions.

“The actions taken are nothing short of heroic,” Mueller said in a statement. “The individual arrested in this incident will now have to face the consequences of his alleged behavior.”


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