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Ex-NYC firefighter, wife escape disaster on TZB
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Eddie and June Pecoroni said their pickup truck was hit by a crane when it collapsed onto the Tappan Zee Bridge on July 19, 2016.(Photo: Frank Scandale/The Journal News)

Eddie and June Pecorini were headed to their house in the Catskills around noon Tuesday, leaving behind the mid-summer swelter of the Bronx, when a section of a crane collapsed onto their pickup truck as they neared the Rockland County side of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

"I saw it coming down out of my peripheral vision because I was looking straight ahead," said June Pecoroni. "If I had been looking out at the water and saw it coming, I would  have screamed, "Look out!'"

Eddie Pecoroni is a retired New York City firefighter who responded to both attacks at the World Trade Center and has witnessed his share of carnage. "We just slid right underneath the boom and I heard this crash and said, 'What the hell was that?," Eddie Pecorini said. ' "I'm fine. My wife is shook up, but we're fine. "

He said it sounded like his truck blew up.

The couple waited alone on the deserted end of the bridge, a surreal scene as traffic on Interstate 287 eastbound backed up for miles in the mid-summer heat.

Pecoroni, a 30-year veteran of the the FDNY, said he always travels in the left lane and was behind a truck and didn't want to pass it on the right when the crane, or a piece of it, slammed into the top of the cab of his Ford 150, and slid off the back, ripping off chunks of the truck's bed cover and side panels. He said it took him a couple hundred yards to pull over and once he made sure his wife was OK, he headed back to the crane.

"I wanted to check to see if anybody else was under it squashed," he said.

He said he didn't see any other cars that were hit.

His wife said even though he is retired, "That is his instinct, to go that way," she said pointing at the collapsed crane. "He's seen a lot of things in his life, but he is not one to come home and talk about it."

June called 911 immediately, was transferred to the New York State Police and was told to hold tight, that somebody would come to them. Two hours later, the couple reported that police had arrived to speak with them.

Beau Duffy, a state police spokesman, said troopers responded to the couple's call that debris from the crane, rather than the crane itself, hit the pickup truck.

On the northbound side of 287 just before the bridge, truck driver Irving Martinez from Michigan said he saw the crane twisting.

"I saw it, man. It was turning and twisting and then it just collapsed," he said. "I knew it was moving too fast. I didn't see it hit any cars.

"I saw the angle and knew it was falling," he said.

Martinez was on his way to his home in New Haven, Conn., but had not been on the Tappan Zee in three years before today.

"The first time in three years and this is what happens," he said.

His truck was the first one before the empty expanse of the bridge that was packed with emergency vehicles and bridge construction workers.

A trucker right behind Martinez, Norman Potter from Rhode Island, said he was driving down near the bridge when he saw what looked like a cement bucket attached to the crane swinging and, "wham, it just collapsed," Potter said. "It looks like a pretzel (the crane)."

"I'm fine. My wife is shaken up, but we're fine," Eddie Pecoroni said.

"We're the lucky ones," his wife added.

The couple said they probably were not headed for the Catskills this day. The next step was to head up to the Bear Mountain Bridge and make their way slowly back to The Bronx.

"Listen, put this in the paper. These construction workers were great. They came over to check on us and asked if we were doing fine. They brought us water and they've been great," Eddie Pecoroni said.

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