By Arielle Dollinger
A Commack resident rescued a 79-year-old Pennsylvania man from a backyard swimming pool on Monday, after the Pennsylvania man drove his car through a fence and into the pool, police said.
John Bacchi, 32, said in an interview Tuesday that he was doing some landscaping work in his Smiths Lane backyard when, around 3:45 p.m., Joseph DiDonato drove his 2010 Acura SUV through a fence separating the yard from Mayfair Foot Care and into the pool. Bacchi broke the driver’s side window to rescue DiDonato from the car.
When asked in an interview Tuesday how Monday was for him, Bacchi said that “it was a little bit of a hectic day.”
“You buy a house on a dead-end block, you don’t expect somebody to work their way through the back into your pool,” said Bacchi, an electrician.
Suffolk County Police said DiDonato had “apparently pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake.” Bacchi estimated that DiDonato was driving 30 or 40 miles per hour when he hit the pool.
After the crash, DiDonato was “dazed,” Bacchi said, and not making any apparent attempts to get himself out of the car. He did, however, move his head back when DiDonato told him that he was going to break the window to free him.
After pulling DiDonato through the window of the car and out of the pool, Bacchi said that he and his wife got him a towel and a blanket and waited for “the professionals” to arrive.
The Commack Fire Department, Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Suffolk Police responded, and Commack ambulance took DiDonato to Huntington Hospital for evaluation; as of press time on Tuesday, he is no longer listed as a patient there.
But fire officials said the resident did much of the work to save DiDonato’s life.
“The home owner took care of rescuing the guy,” said Commack Fire Department First Assistant Chief Andy Babajko.
A small indentation in the dirt and a broken fence between the Mayfair Foot Care parking lot and the Bacchi family’s backyard marks the path DiDonato traveled – past dark-leaved plants with magenta-colored flowers – before reaching the short stretch of lawn that led him into the pool.
A pool professional told Bacchi today that the pool has been “destroyed” and is beyond repair. But Bacchi said the outcome could have been much, much worse.
“Easily three to four people could’ve died,” he said, noting that his wife had been working in DiDonato’s path five minutes before the car came through. “It could’ve been a lot worse… Anything [material] can be fixed.”