Police pull driver from burning car - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Police pull driver from burning car

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BLOOMINGTON, IN (NBC) - Faced with a wall of fire, three Bloomington, Indiana police officers raced right in to save a driver trapped inside his car.

Police say the driver was still trying to start the vehicle even as it went up in flames.

"They were several feet, probably ten feet high. The flames were just massive coming out of the front of the car," said witness Andrew Houppert.

That dangerous scene led to a dramatic police rescue.

The explosion, caught on a cruiser's camera, shows officers rush to stop the fire and save the driver trapped inside.

Officers Jeffrey Rees, Daniel Coons and Matthew Gilmore used a fire extinguisher on the car.

When the flames proved too intense, they didn't stop their rescue effort.

"They did an excellent job with some very scary circumstances," said Bloomington Police Captain Joe Qualters.

"To see the officers just park and run up the way they did, just insane," Houppert said.

"One of the officers tried to use the door handle to open the car door, however because of the heat of the fire, that door handle was broken and melted off essentially," explained Qualters.

"Then one of the cops broke open the window with his baton and just grabbed the guy, like three cops grabbed the guy and pulled him out," Houppert said. "It was really scary. I mean, those guys got that guy out just in time."

That's because a second explosion hit just moments after the ambulance arrived.

40-year-old Larry D. Roberts, of Bloomington, went to the hospital in critical condition.

Bloomington Hospital officials wouldn't release his condition as of Thursday night.

The three officers were treated and released for minor injuries and smoke inhalation.

"What led to that initial event is something we're still looking into," Qualters said.

Accident reconstruction investigators did not find any obvious damage or impact to the car from an accident, so it's unclear whether a vehicle malfunction caused the fire.

While that investigation continues, Bloomington Police are hailing three of their own as heroes.

The three officers have already been nominated for the department's Lifesaving and Bravery Awards.

"We're very proud of their response," Qualters said.

"One of the officers came by to talk to me and we thanked them," Houppert said. "We said, 'that's just courage. You guys are awesome, so thank you very much'."

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