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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Off-duty New London cop among good Samaritans at scene of I-95 crash

    In this screen grab from a Twitter video posted by WTNH reporter Tina Detelj, New London police Lt. Cornelius Rodgers runs around the side of a car involved in a crash with a fuel truck on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge as fire approaches on Friday, April 21, 2023.
    New London Police Lt. Cornelius Rodgers at his promotion ceremony in November 2022. (Courtesy of New London Police)

    New London ― After 20 years as a police officer, New London Police Officer Cornelius “Neil” Rodgers says training and experience tend to kick in during an emergency.

    That’s what he said happened Friday while he was driving home after a workout at a Groton gym and came upon the scene of a fiery crash involving a fuel oil tanker on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge.

    Rodgers, who was off duty, quickly surveyed the scene, saw a thick black plume of smoke rising from the remains of the fuel truck and a bystander helping a woman from the passenger side of a car involved in the crash.

    “She was screaming for her father. He was still stuck in the car,” Rodgers said. “I knew I had to act quickly and make a decision.”

    The driver in the car was behind the steering wheel and conscious but was unable to get out himself even as a pool of burning fuel oil crept closer. Rodgers ran to the car but found the driver’s side door jammed shut. He moved to the passenger side and managed to yank the wedged-in driver out of the vehicle.

    Two bystanders helped Rodgers drag the man away from flames that moments later consumed the car. They moved the man several times as the heat from the flames increased ― heat that eventually burned through metal railings along the bridge.

    Rodgers, 44, of New London, drove himself to the hospital after emergency responders took over the scene. He was treated for smoke inhalation but said he expects to be back at work Saturday.

    New London Police Chief Brian Wright used words like “heroic” and “selfless” when describing Rodgers’ actions.

    “He disregarded his own personal safety to assist and save others. It’s the quintessential definition of what we do as police. The two civilians that assisted him, they’re heroes too,” Wright said.

    Wright visited the hospital to check on Rodgers afterward and said he was also able to talk to the two victims in the crash, who are also from New London and equally grateful to those that helped them. Wright said the two victims appear to be recuperating.

    Rodgers said he considers policing to be a 24-hour job. Of his actions Friday, he said he would expect anyone else in his position to do the same.

    “That’s the reason I got into policing ― to help people,” he said.

    g.smith@theday.com

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