At least three good Samaritans put their lives on the line pulling a driver out of an SUV that burst into flames after a crash in Spring Valley earlier this week.
The driver was pulled to safety after being involved in a series of hit-and-run crashes that ended in a final wreck that sent his vehicle airborne into a light pole, according to the CHP.
It happened Tuesday around 6:15 p.m., when the 21-year-old driver of a Mitsubishi Montero crashed on eastbound Jamacha Road at State Route 125.
The unidentified driver is now accused in at least three hit-and-run crashes and is also facing felony DUI charges.
“I had that moment of pause in myself, and said, ‘This is real,’ ” said Sean Roland, who was one of the first at the crash scene.
When Roland rushed to aid the driver, the vehicle had flipped on its side and caught on fire.
“I looked down and saw a foot sticking up," Roland said. "And I was like, 'Hey, guys, there’s someone in here. We need to get him out.”
Aurelio Santillan was also at the scene and without hesitation offered to help Roland.
“It was like a roller coaster of emotions, because at the beginning, it kicked in," Santillan said. "I was upset that he almost killed me if he would have slammed into me, but immediately, it kicked in that it was a human being.”
Roland, who has some firefighter training, recognized the urgency of the moment as fire began to rage near the SUV’s engine.
“I said, 'Hey, if we’re going to save this guy, we need to do it now,' " Roland said. "We need to get this vehicle up off the ground, get him out from underneath it.”
Meanwhile, Santillan’s brother Ricardo, who just happened to be in the area at the time, also rushed to the crash scene and fortunately for all involved, he was armed with a fire extinguisher.
“Honestly, I got too close to the fire, but I just wanted to control it,” Ricardo said.
The extinguisher bought precious seconds for the men to push the SUV back on its wheels and free the unconscious driver. The rescuers pulled him out through a rear side window unconscious but alive.
The three good Samaritans, in an exclusive interview with NBC 7, showered praise upon one another for their lifesaving efforts.
“These are the type of guys that we need in our community," Roland said. "We need to come together for stuff like this, not be scared, because that could have easily been someone’s daughter or son."
“I knew that if we wouldn’t act in that particular, in that exact second, we wouldn’t have a second chance,” Aurelio said.
“I would do it again without thinking twice," Ricardo said. "It’s a life you can save."
The driver of the SUV, who investigators said was not wearing a seat belt, was taken to the Scripps Mercy Hospital with major injuries.
At least three other people whose vehicles were hit by the driver suffered minor injuries, including a 73-year old man and 41-year old woman.