By Jeanne Sager
POND EDDY March 22, 2005 Tragedy has rocked the Barryville area since Thursday afternoon when a horrific car accident took the lives of five local residents, including two young children.
According to police, Barryville resident Debra Rizzo, 45, was traveling north on Route 97 in her 1993 Mercury around 3:30 Thursday afternoon.
While maneuvering a gradual curve in the Town of Lumberland near the Town of Highland line, Rizzos vehicle crossed over the double yellow line, striking a 1996 Pontiac driven by 46-year-old Denise Fisher of Eldred.
Fisher, a supervisor at the Eldred Preserve Restaurant, had a car full of family members, including two grandchildren, her daughter and her sons fiancee.
According to NYS Police Investigator Mike Orrego, the impact of the crash sparked a fire likely caused by the fuel injection system in the Pontiac.
When the Lumberland Fire Department arrived on the scene, the car was already fully involved.
It was beyond trying to rescue anyone, Chief Charlie Fallon said sadly.
While one passenger in Fishers car 21-year-old Erin Amato of Barryville was able to escape the flames, four others remained trapped inside.
The passengers 25-year-old Ruth Wildrick of Port Jervis and her son, 2-year-old Alex Fisher, and 3-year-old Beatrice Amato of Barryville all died in the fiery crash, along with the drivers of both vehicles.
Erin Amato, who was able to crawl from the Pontiacs wreckage, tried in vain to rescue those left behind all relatives, including her daughter Beatrice, mom Denise, nephew Alex and Wildrick, her brother Kevins fiancee. She was transported to Bon Secours Hospital in Port Jervis, where she was treated and released for bruises and burns to her hands.
Fallon said the scene shook his men to the core.
It was a horrific accident, something we dont deal with regularly, he said.
Its not a good thing to go to any accident, said Daryl Barnes, chief of the Yulan Fire Department, which was first on the scene. But this . . . this was the worst accident Ive ever been to.
It shook up his men too, and a critical stress debriefing team was called in the next night to help the folks in the Yulan, Lumberland and Highland Lake departments, plus the American Legion Ambulance Corps, deal with what theyd seen.
Although Highland Lake was on standby and never had to report to the accident scene, they were hit hard Kevin Fisher who lost his mother, sister, fiancee and son in one fell swoop is captain of the department.
Despite the horrors of the accident scene, Fallon said everyone kept it together and acted with due respect to the victims.
At times accident scenes can become chaotic, but people were focused on the tragedy at hand, Fallon said, saddened and shocked by what they saw.
It was just one of those things, he noted. A nice, sunny day, 3:30 in the afternoon, everyone looking forward to spring and . . .
The aftermath of the crash has been reverberating throughout the community, Fallon explained.
Although most of the people in the cars lived in Barryville, even folks in Lumberland are quickly learning how they related to people they knew.
On behalf of the fire department and the community, Fallon said, our prayers and thoughts go out to the family.
The crash is still under investigation by State Police while folks in Barryville try to come to grips with the loss of a well-known family.
Also responding were the American Legion Ambulance Corps and Mobile Life.