Democrat File Photo
RON CUCCI WAVES to the crowd while participating in the 2004 Callicoon Tractor Parade. Cucci was riding a lawn mower when it tipped down an embankement next to the Delaware River.
Ron Cucci recovering after accident
By Fred Stabbert III
CALLICOON River Road residents in Callicoon are very proud of their property. Their lawns are neatly manicured, flower gardens are always in bloom and many a summer garden is beginning to sprout along the Delaware.
One such resident, Ron Cucci, has lived there a lifetime and takes great enjoyment in keeping his property in tip-top shape.
That’s just what he was doing Tuesday afternoon when he drove his riding lawn mower too close to the edge of a 15-foot embankment and tumbled into the Delaware River, the mower pinning him to the ground.
Luckily, his son and neighbor, Rich Cucci, was working in his welding shop that day when he noticed a cloud of smoke envelop his parents’ house and his home, too. Oil from the tipped over mower had hit the hot motor, causing it to smoke.
Rich quickly went to see what has going on and, looking over the bank, at first didn’t notice his father, who was hidden at the bottom of the stone wall.
But Rich quickly figured out what had happened and raced down the grass slope to find his dad lying on the riverbank, partly in the water.
Rich removed the tractor, did his best to comfort dad, and then went to call for help.
As luck would have it, two Callicoon women, Joyce Hillriegel and her daughter Shanna Kaplan, were enjoying the beautiful summer day on a walk along the river with Shanna’s two children.
“We saw the smoke and wondered what would be burning so close to the river,” Joyce said. “We peeked over the bank, saw Mr. Cucci and Rich, and down we went.”
Incredibly, both Joyce and her daughter are ER nurses at Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Harris.
“Ron kept saying, “I want a cold beer,’” Joyce said. “I told him, ‘so do I.’”
Joyce promised to bring him a six-pack when he gets home.
Another passerby, Tom Kern, stopped. He is a retired EMT from New York City who now owns a home on River Road.
Soon the Callicoon Fire Department was on the scene, racing to help their former Chief, active fireman and dear friend.
It was now Ron’s turn to see how well he had trained the younger firemen. Ron, who is 76 years young, needed immediate care, so the firemen put him in the Chief’s car and took him to nearby Grover Hermann Hospital in Callicoon.
Realizing his injuries were too severe to survive a direct flight to Valhalla, it was decided to airlift Ron to CRMC in Harris to get stabilized before airlifting him to Westchester Medical Center (WMC) in Valhalla.
“We are very proud of how our team responded,” CRMC CEO Steve Ruwoldt said.
Doctors in the WMC trauma unit operated on him Tuesday night, and he was initially listed in critical condition.
While he is still in Intensive Care as of yesterday afternoon and will need further operations to heal his wounds, family members report he is doing much better.