At first, when SEPTA police Sgt. Marc Pasquarella approached the car, he wasn’t going to touch the driver trapped in the front seat.
He thought it better to wait for paramedics to arrive to the scene June 30 on North Delaware Avenue, where moments earlier the car had crashed into the rear of a trash truck.
But then, Pasquarella said he heard a voice came from the direction of the trash truck.
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“The car’s on fire,” the truck driver told the officer.
That’s when he jumped into action, and what became a daring rescue was all caught on cameras.
SEPTA officials released videos Thursday from Pasquarella’s Body Worn Camera and the police dash cam.
The footage showed the struggle for Pasquarella and two passersby to pull the unconscious driver to safety moments before flames from the engine engulfed the front of the car.
“I believe the captain told me that, I think, within like a minute of the fire starting, or a minute-and-a-half, the whole car is up in flames,” Pasquarella said at a press conference.
Pasquarella will be working seven years this October. He was on patrol the night of the rescue.
“I walk up to the driver’s side to check, and he was just, he was laid out,” he said, adding that the victim was “kinda stuck under the dashboard.”
During the time he tried to take the man out of the car, Pasquarella said the rescue “felt like I was there for like 20 minutes, but, you know, it was really only like 40 seconds.”
One of his biggest fears at the time was the engine oil under the car. “I kept slipping on the engine oil, and that’s what really concerned me, ‘cause the car – you know—the front of the car is on fire. I’m worried about the engine oil, that catching fire, then engulfing me and the passersby.”
The passersby also played a role in helping out. “The main guy who helped… he didn’t have to do that. He could've kept going. He didn’t have to stop and help. The lady who was in the trash truck, she was on the phone with 911 calling, so that probably helped out,” Pasquarella said. “Obviously, we’re, we’re very grateful for the bystanders.”
“We patrol, SEPTA, like we patrol the whole city and it just so happened I was right there,” he said.