A quick-thinking police officer saved a man's life by pulling him out of a burning car just before flames fully engulfed the vehicle in Philadelphia early Wednesday morning.
Now, the officer, a six-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, is being hailed a hero.
"It was very lucky for this 47-year-old driver to be pulled out of this vehicle by this 39th District officer," Chief Inspector Scott Small said of the rescue. "This could definitely have been a lot worse if the officer didn't come by when he did."
The incident unfolded just after midnight, when Officer Joel Rice, of the 39th District in Nicetown, was traveling south on Broad Street near Wyoming Avenue after leaving Northwest Detectives headquarters and came upon a crash seconds after it happened.
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Rice said he saw that the car's engine compartment was on fire, approached, and realized the driver, a 47-year-old man, was completely unconscious lying across the front seat after apparently losing control of his car and crashing into the median and two parked vehicles.
Rice reached into the car through the open passenger window and pulled the man out of the car to safety. Seconds later, police said, flames engulfed the entire car.
The driver, who police said did not appear to be impaired at all when medics revived him, escaped with minor injuries including a concussion, bumps and bruises and some facial and head injuries. He was in stable condition at Albert Einstein Medical Center after the crash, Small said.
Viewer video captured the dramatic scene as the fire engulfed the Dodge car the man had been driving, turning it into a fireball in the middle of Broad Street.
"The police department did a good job. The fire department did a good job," Small said at the scene. "This was all timing, and the right place at the right time."
Rice, who was on Broad Street by happenstance on his way back to his own district near 22nd Street and Hunting Park Avenue, said he was glad he found the crash when he did and was able to save the driver.
"I feel good. I'm glad of the outcome," Rice said. "It obviously would've been better without the fiery wreck, but all things considered, this is a positive outcome."