Erik Breitwieser saved Edmund Soledad-Reyes from burning, Southampton, New York, November 14, 2015.
Unresponsive, Soledad-Reyes, 21, remained in the driver’s seat of his coupe after a nighttime accident in which the vehicle overturned and its front end caught fire.
Responding to the scene, Breitwieser, 35, a Southampton police officer, approached the driver’s side of the car and went to his hands and knees on the pavement. He used a baton to break out the window of the driver’s door and then, despite flames about 4 feet high issuing from the engine area and smaller flames inside the passenger compartment at the pedals, reached inside and grasped Soledad-Reyes by the shirt. He tugged once, but Soledad-Reyes did not move.
Realizing that his safety belt was engaged, Breitwieser went to his stomach, extended his upper body into the vehicle, and cut the belt with a knife. He then pulled Soledad-Reyes to him and, dragging him, backed from the vehicle to safety.
Soledad-Reyes required hospital treatment for his injuries, and Breitwieser coughed for two days after the rescue. He fully recovered.