GREAT BARRINGTON — When police officer Bradley Lupiani got to the crash, he found a young man trapped in the wreckage, badly injured and struggling to breathe.
What happened next, the man's father says, saved a life.
Lupiani made sure that Raphael Orlando Gutierrez's head was tilted back to keep his airway open. When Sgt. Paul Storti arrived, the officers used a crowbar to try to free Gutierrez, but couldn't.
As they waited for medics and a Life Star helicopter — and for the fire department to cut the car's roof away— they continued to make sure the young man could breathe. And that is why Gutierrez's father, Diego Gutierrez, believes they saved his son's life.
"I just want to express appreciation," he said Thursday of the officers. "There will never be enough."
It was around 1 a.m. Monday that Lupiani came upon the accident while patrolling Hurlburt Road. The driver and Gutierrez' close friend, Benjamin Badurski, was frantically waving him down for help, crying.
About 10 to 15 minutes had passed since the car had sideswiped a telephone pole and slid sideways across the road and into a tree. Badurski, 19, told Lupiani he couldn't find his phone to call police and had given Gutierrez CPR.
Gutierrez, 20, of Great Barrington, was airlifted to Baystate Medical Center, where he remains in the intensive care unit.
Badurski, also of Great Barrington, now faces multiple charges, including operating under the influence. He was arraigned Thursday in Southern Berkshire District Court. His license is automatically suspended for 30 days.
Despite the violence of the accident, and the terror of a 2 a.m. knock on his door by police, Diego Gutierrez says his son survived and is beginning to recover, though it will be long and slow.
"We had some good news yesterday," he said, noting that his son's breathing tube was removed and he is making "incremental improvements."
Raphael Gutierrez suffered a damaged lung and cracked ribs, his father said. He went 20 to 30 minutes without oxygen after the accident.
While not yet fully conscious, but is responding to stimuli and his name and following some directions. It appears he escaped brain injury, his father added.
Diego Gutierrez said he believes the sequence of events that morning kept his son alive.
"There were so many miracles," he said.
The greatest, he said, is that Officer Lupiani happened to be patrolling Hurlburt Road and that Sgt. Stori arrived soon after.
Next is that the Life Star helicopter had clear conditions in which to fly and a freshly harvested cornfield around 300 feet away on which to land.
Diego Gutierrez says he is also grateful for support shown by the community, which he said is helping the family through a harrowing time.
"It's made it a lot easier to manage," he said.
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.