Three New York Heroes Eager to Shake Hands With Man They Saved

October 11, 2004 -- The three good Samaritans who risked their lives to pull a Queens resident from a burning truck Saturday night said yesterday they're eager to shake hands with the man they saved.

"If he's all right and he wanted to meet me, I'd love to," said Steven Horowitz, one of three local men who stopped when they saw a pickup truck in flames on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, near the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.

The 1988 Ford slammed into a tree about 1,000 feet south of the Shore Parkway shortly before 11 p.m., killing driver Donald Palmer, 57, of Emerald Isle, N.C. Palmer's passenger, Matthew Madden, 61, of Rockaway Beach, was trapped in his seat as flames engulfed the vehicle.

An eagle-eyed police detective, Deputy Inspector Donald Conceicao, and a retired firefighter, Artie Holstrom, 48, pulled over when they saw the flames. They quickly realized the driver was dead and focused their efforts on freeing Madden, who was tangled in his seat belt.

"I tried to put his head and limbs around the seat belt," said Conceicao, 41. "Steve Horowitz came from out of nowhere and cut the seat belt with his very sharp knife."

Conceicao was so anxious to see how Madden is progressing that he stopped by the Kings County Hospital intensive-care unit early yesterday morning to try to talk to him. But he said the injured man was too sedated to speak.

Madden was in stable condition with injuries that included a serious leg fracture, Conceicao said. "His right leg was bent up in the wrong direction - almost at a 90-degree angle - so clearly, his leg was broken," the officer said.

Holstrom, who retired from Engine Co. 245 in Coney Island 14 years ago, said he wanted to talk to Madden to find out what happened. "I'd like to get the story from him."

The three rescuers said they weren't comfortable with being called heroes. "I would just hope that somebody would do it for me," Horowitz said.