It was a fiery crash Aug. 29 that could have taken a life.
But Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Roger Schreader broke a window and pulled a trapped woman from her vehicle and to safety. He said he was "just at the right spot at the right time."
"I was lucky. I was a minute away. If I was anyplace else, five minutes away, it would have been a different outcome," said Schreader, who also happens to be the recently appointed Cambria Volunteer Fire chief.
Charlene Cescon, 45, of Lockport, had stopped at 5:30 a.m. for an iced tea on her way to her job as activities director at Bristol Village Retirement Community in Amherst. At 5:45 a.m. on South Transit Road near Rapids Road, her Ford Escape was hit head on by a Jeep, which crossed the center median. The Jeep's driver, Gary Miles, 29, of Gardenwood Drive, Lockport, has been charged with driving while intoxicated.
"I don't believe in luck. [Schreader] was there for a reason," said Cescon's cousin, Terry Roberts. "He acted swiftly and professionally and knew what to do. I'm so grateful he was there. Thank God.
"He saved her life, and so did the nurses [who also stopped on the scene]."
Roberts spoke for Cescon on Thursday, as she had trouble breathing while recovering from her injuries in Erie County Medical Center. Her injuries included a large head laceration and six broken ribs. She underwent surgery Friday on her right heel and ankle, which will need plates and pins, and she is expected to spend another week and a half in the hospital.
Jamielee Reynolds of Newfane, a nurse's aide from Brothers of Mercy in Clarence, was also on her way to work and saw the accident unfold.
"Of course I stopped. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't," she said.
And right behind her were two other passers-by who felt the same, David E. Smith of Lockport and Kelly Duffy, a contract nurse from Lockport who works in Medina.
All three were searching for something to break a window to get Cescon out of her vehicle.
"[Smith] was doing everything he could and it just would not break. He even wrapped a blanket around a chair. We were even throwing things," said Duffy. "I felt so helpless. I had nightmares about it. It got engulfed so fast. I was looking for burns when she got pulled out. It was just seconds. It just haunts me," Duffy said.
"If it were not for [Schreader], she wouldn't be alive today. He didn't think twice. He sprayed the fire extinguisher to bring the flames back a little," Duffy said.
Schreader, a deputy for the past six years and the Cambria fire chief since June said, "When you work midnights you live with your flashlight, so I just grabbed my flashlight. I just got my fire extinguisher out of the trunk and punched out the window with my flashlight. Knocked down the fire a bit with my extinguisher and reached in the window a bit. By luck it just opened right up."
"I don't care what kind of injuries you have. We've got to get her out of the vehicle before she gets hurt," Schreader said. "You do what you have to do and get her out as fast as you can.
"The newer style cars are made of plastic and do burn a lot hotter and a lot faster. A few minutes later [Cescon's] passenger compartment was consumed in flames. Our little fire extinguishers we do carry are not going to put out a car fire."
Duffy said she plans to get a hammer so she can be ready for a future emergency and said she attended to Cescon on the scene with her medical bag until the ambulance arrived, and even checked out her condition at ECMC afterward.
"It was weighing on my heart and my mind for days. It was all so surreal. It seems like forever, but it was just minutes," Duffy said.
Miles, the driver of the other car, was combative at the scene and refused several attempts to treat him. He was later treated and released from Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport. His record indicates past arrests for driving while intoxicated, fleeing police and even crashing his car in an attempt to flee last year from state troopers, as well as driving without a license.
Miles appeared in Lockport Town Court on Friday on unrelated charges of harassment, menacing and endangering the welfare of the child. He was remanded to Niagara County Jail on $20,000 cash or $40,000 bond on those charges.
A return court date on the latest DWI charges was set for Thursday.