Couple chases, stops elderly driver's runaway car

November 12, 1992|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A routine lunch date for Chip Snyder and Kim Schuttler turned into something out of television's "Rescue 911."

The couple chased down an out-of-control car with an unconscious driver behind the wheel, brought the car to a halt and kept it from plowing into oncoming traffic on busy Federal Highway in Pompano Beach, Fla.

"It takes a lot to impress me. But this was amazing," said Bobby Barriento, a car salesman at Terry Ford, where Mr. Snyder is sales manager.

"They deserve a pat on the back," Pompano Beach Police Officer Connie Ryan said.

Ms. Schuttler, 27, of Lighthouse Point, Fla., was driving to the Ford dealership to meet Mr. Snyder yesterday when she noticed a late-model Cadillac DeVille weaving and hitting the median.

Ms. Schuttler, a co-pilot for American Airlines, said that a female passenger "flung open the door and was yelling, 'Help! Help!' "

Ms. Schuttler parked her car and chased the runaway vehicle on foot. The Cadillac slowed as it kept hitting the highway median.

Mr. Snyder, 29, of Pompano Beach, looked out his office to see his girlfriend in pursuit of the weaving car and assumed the worst.

"I thought [the driver] was trying to outrun [Kim] after hitting her car," Mr. Snyder said. "I felt protective. I beelined . . . out the door."

As Ms. Schuttler and Mr. Snyder ran toward the car, the passenger jumped out. Then Mr. Snyder saw the unconscious driver slumped over the steering wheel.

Ms. Schuttler reached the car -- now on a collision course with a bus shelter -- first. She reached inside and turned the wheel sharply to the left, away from the bus stop, while Mr. Snyder reached for the gear shift.

Mr. Snyder yelled for Ms. Schuttler to let go of the car. She did, then blocked traffic.

Mr. Snyder had a new problem. The Cadillac was heading toward oncoming northbound traffic. Despite getting entangled with the driver, he managed to pull the emergency brake and stop the car.

Both the driver, identified as Joseph DeVito, 75, and his passenger, Josephine Adams, 67, were taken to Humana Hospital-Cypress. They were treated and released, hospital officials said.

Mr. Snyder and Ms. Schuttler said Mr. DeVito regained consciousness after he was pulled from his car and that Ms. Adams' injuries appeared to be minor.

Mr. Snyder suffered a few injuries himself. While he was hanging onto the moving Cadillac, it ran over one foot; he also got a sore shoulder and a charley horse. "I didn't feel bad at first," he said. "The adrenalin just took over."

Ms. Schuttler and Mr. Snyder downplayed their actions.

"If it were me, I'd like someone to do the same thing," Mr. Snyder said. "I don't feel like a hero."

The afternoon drama changed the couple's lunch plans.

"We got takeout because our [lunch hour] turned out to be a three-hour ordeal," Ms. Schuttler said.

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