Jon Kitamura saved Desiree O. Lopez, Melvin Miller, and two others from burning, Grimes, California, August 28, 2004. Lopez, 18, and two men were rear-seat passengers, and Miller, 21, was the front-seat passenger, in a sport utility vehicle that left the highway, struck a tree, and caught fire at its front end. Off duty, Kitamura, 45, highway patrol officer, was driving on the same highway and came upon the scene shortly after the accident. Finding the vehicle’s doors jammed but the window of the driver’s door broken out, he leaned through the window opening, grasped Lopez, and pulled her from the vehicle as flames began to enter its passenger compartment. Another man who responded broke out the vehicle’s back window. Kitamura climbed through that window, grasped one of the men in the back seat, and removed him from the vehicle, then he re-entered the vehicle and rescued the other man in similar fashion. A third time Kitamura entered the vehicle through the rear window. He made his way to the front seat, where he unfastened Miller’s safety belt. He grasped Miller and pulled him to the back of the vehicle, then exited with him. The vehicle was shortly filled with flame. Lopez, Miller, and the two other men all required hospital treatment for their injuries, but they were not burned. Kitamura recovered from minor smoke inhalation and cuts.
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