Paramedic who responded to the World Trade Center attack killed in crash

By John M. Annese Staten Island Advance
Advance staffers Kiawana Rich and Ryan Lavis contributed to this report.

A wild collision between an ambulance and an SUV has left two people dead, one of them a retired FDNY EMS lieutenant working as a paramedic for Staten Island University Hospital.

The crash happened on Hylan Boulevard shortly after 7 p.m. Monday, near the intersection of Seacrest Avenue in Eltingville.

Witnesses told the Advance that the driver of a BMW SUV headed north on Hylan jumped the divider. The ambulance, an SIUH vehicle, headed south with a patient and two paramedics, swerved but couldn’t avoid the collision.

The ambulance flipped on its side, and the impact launched the driver of the BMW, whom sources identified as Benjamin Budzaku, from his vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His age and community were not immediately released.

One of the paramedics in the ambulance, David Restuccio, died following the crash, hospital spokeswoman Arleen Ryback confirmed Monday evening.

One source familiar with the investigation said Restuccio was trapped inside the totaled ambulance, and died of massive internal injuries after being taken to the hospital.

The second paramedic, identified by sources as Yusuke Yonehara, and the patient being transported, have been taken to SIUH’s Ocean Breeze campus for evaluation, Ms. Ryback said.

One motorist, Robert Genco of Annadale, said the ambulance grazed his vehicle, but he hit the gas and swerved to the right to get clear.

“I was lucky. A second sooner, the ambulance could have been on top of me,” Genco said. He was on his way home from his job in Bay Ridge, and as he described it, “I’ve been making this trip home for thirty years. I’ve never seen an accident like this.”

Breana Imbrugia, 23, of Prince’s Bay, was also headed south, in a car driven by her boyfriend. She said she was so close to the crash that glass from the collision flew into their 2003 Mercedes.

“The BMW was on the other side of the street. He jumped the divider. The ambulance tried to swerve to avoid getting hit, but the BMW hit the ambulance and the ambulance flipped over,” Ms. Imbrugia said. “The guy got thrown from the car. I saw him fly through the air.”

Michael Hitsous, 21, said he lives down the block and rushed to the scene after hearing the crash.

“It was a loud crash. I went to see what happened. I was in shock seeing all the blood and everything. It was barbaric,” he said.

Restuccio, 58, graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School in 1971, and worked with FDNY EMS from 1981 to 2006, according to his profile. He started working as a paramedic for SIUH in 2001, according to his profile.

Restuccio was part of the response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In a clip of NBC News coverage of the attack, Restuccio can be heard in a phone interview with Brian Williams after 7 World Trade Center collapsed.

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