A crowd of friends were enjoying a Sunday backyard barbecue when they heard the obscene noise of scraping metal.
“It sounded like a truck running over the top of a car,” said Thomas Diana, the May 16 party’s host. “It went on for forever.”
Diana and his guests rushed onto 80th Avenue in Glen Oaks to see what caused the screeching to find an SUV on its side with a mother and four children inside. Phillip Grillo, one of the guests who had just stepped outside of the party, was already reaching through the sunroof to pull the family from the wreckage.
“God puts me in places where I need to be,” Grillo said simply.
Grillo, a Republican district leader, made headlines three months ago for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. He was arrested in February after two tipsters identified him as they watched news coverage of the insurrection. One claimed to recognize him by his signature Knights of Columbus St. Anne’s Council #2429 jacket. He was charged with knowingly entering a restricted building without permission and knowingly attempting to disrupt government business and released on $100,000 bond.
Grillo watched last Sunday’s incident happen as he stood on the street, and said he jumped into action without a second thought, especially after seeing the faces of the four young children inside. He pulled them out as quickly as possible, worried that the car would explode into flames.
The rescuer, who is recovering from bicep surgery, injured himself in the process, but said he didn’t feel any pain until well after the incident. Grillo said he doesn’t mind the dull pain and that he’d lose the arm if it meant helping out the young family.
Luckily, no one was seriously injured. A spokesperson from the NYPD told the Chronicle that all five occupants were sent to Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park in stable condition.
According to the police, the mother was driving on 80th Street at 6:40 p.m. when she accidentally accelerated instead of braking and hit the curb, which caused the car to overturn and come to a stop outside the Playground Eighty LXXX fencing. Diana speculated she had intended to turn onto 126th Street, a one-way road, but overcorrected after realizing she was facing the wrong direction.
Diana’s sons brought chairs out for the family to decompress on as they waited for the police to arrive, but one of the children, an 8-year-old girl, refused to let go of Grillo.
“Those kids are brave kids,” Grillo said. “I was shaken up, but these little kids ... what a strong group of kids.”
After visiting the hospital, the family returned to the scene, along with the father, who hadn’t been in the accident, to express their gratitude to Grillo and the party guests. He said in the days following the accident he still thinks about their faces as they were trapped inside the overturned car.
In addition to some aches and pains from the rescue, Grillo said he’s been left with plenty to consider on his own life.
“I have some new thoughts on a few things that I’m going to do in the future as far as God’s will,” he said.