Hero Plumber Describes Helping Woman Struck by Cab in Midtown
MIDTOWN — A hero Bronx plumber who sprang into action to help save a young British tourist hit by an out-of-control cab in Midtown Tuesday just wanted to "stop the leak" when he used his belt as a tourniquet to stanch the bleeding from the victim's severed leg.
But the father of two remained humble.
"I'm no hero," he told DNAinfo New York. "I'm just a regular guy.
"I had to step up to the plate. I just reacted."
Justino, who was working on a job at a nearby Duane Reade, said he had come up from the below-street-level store to make a phone call when a cab hurtled over the curb at 49th Street and Sixth Avenue, just steps away from him, before 11:30 a.m.
He was able to get a woman out of the way — the 23-year-old victim's friend — before the cab crashed into the crowded plaza, smashing Sian Green against the planter where moments earlier she had been enjoying hot dogs bought from a nearby cart.
After the impact, which also left a cyclist injured, Justino tended to the injured woman, whose left leg was severed near the knee and whose right leg suffered deep cuts.
"She was in pain, beyond pain. She stayed awake the whole time," Justino said. "She screamed at the top of her lungs bloody murder that it hurts."
In order to stem the flow of blood, the foreman with Local 1 of the Plumbers Union wrapped his heavy-duty Carhartt belt around her leg and pulled hard, waiting for medics to arrive.
"She was in some bad shape," he said. "It felt like forever."
While Justino received some first aid training through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, he said that working on construction sites, as he had been doing since he was 18, taught him and his coworkers to improvise.
In this case, he thought like a plumber.
"Stop the leak," he said. "That's what I had to do."
While he had seen a few major accidents on job sites, including one in which a worker got impaled on a piece of metal at the beginning of his career, he had never used a tourniquet before.
"The OSHA training is very basic, but every Boy Scout knows how to make a tourniquet," he said.
While he was waiting for help to arrive, another Good Samaritan wrapped a dog leash around Green's other leg to stop the bleeding.
"When I got the belt around her leg, I tried to keep positive," he said, "but I thought she was going to die here."
The plumber, who also owns a pet store in Yonkers, poured water on the victim's head to keep her awake and tried to comfort her.
"I told her she’d be all right and I got you and you’re going to live," he said.
Dr. Oz, who was taping his TV show in NBC's nearby Studio 6A, heard the crash and rushed out to help, adjusting the tourniquet and lauding Justino's efforts.
Meanwhile Justino and other passersby packed the woman's foot into a cooler with ice to try to preserve it.
According to Justino, the driver of the cab — who witnesses said was trying to make a left onto 49th street after getting into a confrontation with a cyclist — never slowed down.
"I looked in the car," he said. "I couldn’t believe the damage he did and he showed no ... remorse."
The driver was not immediately charged, but the owner of the taxi, NYC Taxi Group, was issued a summons for having an unauthorized driver and incorrect fare information.
Green was rushed to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition, but she was deemed stable Tuesday night, authorities said.
Justino's actions drew praise from neighbors up in Morris Park.
"That he had the foresight to turn a tool belt into a tourniquet, oh boy," said Anthony Abbate, who lives next door to Justino. "Talk about quick thinking."
But Justino is just hoping for Green's speedy recovery.
"If this girl wakes up...today wasn't as bad as I thought it was," he said.
Additional reporting by Patrick Wall