Teens talk about finding teacher seriously injured in creek

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ZELIENOPLE, Pa. - A man who was pulled from his car after he lost control and landed in a Zelienople creek Sunday night remains hospitalized.

Emergency responders said the accident happened around 9:30 p.m. near Halstead Boulevard. Seneca Valley School District officials said the victim in the accident is Henry “Leo” Stefanacci, a special education teacher at Seneca Valley Middle School for more than 10 years.

"We were saddened to learn this morning of the serious nature of his car accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with him for a full recovery," said Seneca Valley School District spokeswoman Linda Andreassi.

Dispatchers said Stefanacci's car was going around a bend when he lost control and the car ended up on its roof in the Connoquenessing Creek.

Investigators said no one saw the accident, but four teens passed by, saw tire tracks in the snow and called 911.

“We passed it, then stopped and backed up. When we looked down, there was a car submerged with no lights coming from it. No one would have noticed it,” Zack Madarrafi said.

Madaffari said he and three friends were on their way to get food when they noticed tire tracks in the snow.

The group didn’t know at the time that their former teacher was trapped in the car. They said they knew they had to help.

“I don’t think we are heroes. I think we were in the right place at the right time. To know it was my teacher makes me feel really good,” Aimee Scholl said.

School, Madaffari and Nick and Josh Spiegel said they believe their firefighter training helped them during the situation.

“I’ve been getting texts and my Facebook has been lighting up. It does make me feel good what we did,” Josh Spiegel said.

Several dive teams were called in to search the creek, but first responders were able to locate the driver before they arrived and pulled him out alive.

"We put guys in the water to see if we could get him out and they were able to get the victim out and life-flighted him to the hospital," Zelienople Fire Chief Rob Reeb said.

Reed said icy road conditions may have caused the accident, which happened less than a few miles from Stefanacci’s home. He also commended the four teens for their help.

“If they wouldn’t have stopped, I don’t know what would have happened. They heard him screaming out for help,” Reeb said.

Stefanacci is listed in critical condition.