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Hero Mom Who Saved Kids From Murray Hill Truck Went on Autopilot

By Mary Johnson | August 9, 2011 7:05am | Updated on August 9, 2011 7:37am
Debra Dermack saved her children, Hannah and Samuel, from an out-of-control truck on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.
Debra Dermack saved her children, Hannah and Samuel, from an out-of-control truck on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.
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Debra Dermack

MURRAY HILL — As Debra Dermack watched a truck veer off Third Avenue and barrel towards the stroller holding her two young children, the hero mom went on autopilot.

The Murray Hill dentist grabbed the stroller, shoving two-year-old Hannah and 10-month-old Samuel out of the path of the huge vehicle, which jumped the curb at East 30th Street Thursday. It's thought it was suffering from faulty brakes.

The truck crash left her with minor injuries. Her children were unscathed.

“Truthfully, I didn’t care about myself. I just wanted to get the kids out of the way,” said Dermack, 40, who lives and works several blocks north of the intersection.

“I would rather die than have my kids get hurt.”

Dermack said her children are “100 percent OK,” but she will likely pursue a lawsuit against the driver or his company.

After the accident on Thursday, police determined that no criminal charges would be filed against the driver. Officials said that defective brakes were to blame for the wreck.

But Dermack said she and her husband are now looking into hiring a lawyer and pursuing their legal options.

Although her children were unhurt, the truck knocked over a Muni-Meter and hit a postal worker, who suffered minor injuries. It also toppled a tree, which hit Dermack and left her with a abrasions and a sore knee.

The emergency workers who arrived on the scene were concerned that she could have suffered something more serious. They strapped her to a board and loaded her into an ambulance, along with her children.

Her husband had been told only that his wife had been hit by a truck, Dermack said. So he was relieved to see that her injuries were minor when he arrived at the hospital.

“You don’t think, walking, that’s going to happen,” said Dermack, who considers herself lucky to be alive.

She and her children were indeed fortunate. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 52 percent of all traffic deaths in New York City from 2005 to 2009.

A New York City Department of Health study found that Manhattan was the most dangerous borough for pedestrians, with roughly 200 killed in that same time period.

In the past few months, a slew of accidents have claimed the lives of pedestrians. In January, a dump truck hit and killed a 35-year-old woman on the Upper East Side. In May, a man from Pennsylvania was killed when a tour bus hit him in Hell’s Kitchen. Last month, a man died after the driver of an NYPD van lost control of the vehicle and jumped a curb in Chinatown.

Even several days after the crash, Dermack said that her daughter is still talking about the crash. She asks about the truck and her mom's "boo boos." Dermack assures her that everyone is safe now.

“It makes you really appreciate life a little more and hug the kids a little more,” Dermack said.