'I couldn't leave him': Good Samaritan rescued man trapped in car during Ida's flooding in Millburn

A Maplewood man is being lauded for his act of heroism during the Ida flooding.

News 12 Staff

Sep 9, 2021, 2:28 AM

Updated 950 days ago

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A Maplewood man is being lauded for his act of heroism during the Ida flooding.
“I heard yelling and we went to the front of the building and the building was flooding already,” says Derek Alfano. “This man was saying, ‘I can’t swim. Help, help, I can’t swim.’”
Alfano says that he was on his way home, driving along Millburn Avenue in Millburn when his car was caught in a flash flood.
“My car started to fill up with water. I started to feel it on my feet and up to my knees and I knew I had to evacuate my car,” he says.
Alfano quickly ditched his car and ducked into a building located at 90 Millburn Ave. The water was already filling the building, stranding employees.
“I was lucky enough to get stalled right here where there were people still in this medical building,” he says.
Moments after Alfano evacuated his car, he heard a distressed voice outside the building. A man named Junior was also driving on Millburn Avenue when his car ended up on top of Alfano’s in 5 feet of water. At that moment, Alfano says that all that he knew of this stranger was that he was panicked and would not be able to help himself if the flooding got any higher.
“He said that he could not get out of his doors, that he could not open the doors and that he couldn’t roll down the window,” Alfano says. “I was talking to him through the sunroof with his head out.”
With lightning illuminating the night sky and wires down, Alfano was putting his own life at risk to help the man.
“I just said to God, ‘Give me the strength. I have to help this guy.' I couldn’t leave him. God forbid if something ever happened to him, I couldn’t live with myself,” Alfano says.
With strong currents and the water rising quickly, Alfano went into action and told Junior to get out through the sunroof and wait on the hood of the car. Alfano then pushed through debris and chest-high water and grabbed Junior by the hand and got him to safety.
Firefighters arrived shortly after and safely evacuated everyone from the building.
Alfano says that he was never able to get Junior’s contact information and he wants to make sure Junior is OK.


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