Johnathan Canas was driving along Walnut Avenue on his way to a job in Rahway Thursday morning. A little worn out from the night before, the Cranford EMS squad member had just finished an unusually busy overnight shift that ended around 6a.m. What happened during his drive to work caught him by surprise, but he was prepared.
"He hit the tree so hard the rear of the car lifted up, and came back down to the ground," Canas,22, said about the 2008 Chevy Impala that crashed into a tree, with a Cranford man inside.
Canas, who lives in Cranford, was about four cars away from the scene. He flipped on his car's emergency light and swung around the other vehicles so he was able to help.
"All the doors were locked," he said. "I went back into my car to get the thing that cracks the windows," The two-year EMS member was referring to tools in his emergency kit that included a neck brace and portable oxygen.
Canas had to enter the car through the passenger side, although the man was slumped over the steering wheel. "Branches fell on top, you couldn't open the driver door," he said. Landscapers, who were just behind the vehicle before it crashed stopped to help and used chainsaws to clear the branch.
By this time Stephanie Cabezas, whose house is in front of the crash, rushed out to help. She also put her emergency responder training to use and helped Canas who had entered the vehicle to put a neck collar on the man and put an oxygen mask over his face.
"I was holding his neck and the fire department came," said Canas. The man was placed onto a backboard and put into an ambulance.
Cranford authorities still won't release details of the accident, or the name of the Cranford man who died. The stretch of Walnut Avenue, located in a 25 mph school zone is often monitored by radar, said Lt. James Wozniak. But Wozniak said there were circumstances to this fatal accident other than how fast the man was driving. "At this time, it doesn't appear speed is responsible," he explained. "It's a tragedy we have to investigate an accident like this."