Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Dramatic video: Driver rescued from burning car by Pasco deputy, two others

LAND O'LAKES — The 911 call was about a car on fire on State Road 52 near Kent Grove Drive.

By the time Pasco Sheriff's Cpl. Anthony Petersen got there early Saturday, he found flames rising 20 feet high and a driver trapped inside.

Luckily, Petersen wasn't alone. Two passers-by helped him pull the driver to safety in a dramatic rescue captured on video by the deputy's body camera.

"It took the three of us," Petersen said at a news conference Monday. "Without one of the other people there I don't know if we would have gotten him out."

Fire Rescue personnel said the driver, Anthony Rouch, 28, of Spring Hill, suffered only minor injuries, likely from the rescue efforts. Alcohol appears to be a factor in the crash that caused the fire, the Sheriff's Office said.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Rouch was heading west on State Road 52 west of Kent Grove Drive when the 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer he was driving left the roadway about 4 a.m. The car struck a barbed wire fence before hitting a tree and coming to a stop.

Crystian Martinez, an EMT for Transcare Ambulance Service, was first on the scene. The 26-year-old from Spring Hill said he was on his way to work when he spotted the fire.

He saw movement inside the car so he smashed its rear passenger-side window to let smoke out, he said. When he couldn't immediately free Rouch, he dialed 911 and then handed his phone to a woman who had also stopped to help.

Randy Breighner, 59, also from Spring Hill, got there next.

"I am glad I was in the right place in the right time to help," said Breighner, who was on his way home from work.

By the time Peterson arrived, the flames were still raging, the corporal said. Rouch's legs were trapped under the steering wheel.

Together, the three men opened the rear door and yanked Rouch from the burning car.

Through it all, Rouch was "combative and lethargic," Martinez, the EMT, said. Rouch refused an alcohol test, according to the Highway Patrol report.

At 2:25 a.m. Saturday, Rouch posted to his Facebook page that he was out drinking at Brewlands Bar & Billiards in Carrollwood.

A friend replied to his post, "You better be careful … Cops are crazy coming home."

"Whether he was intoxicated or not, that doesn't matter to me," Martinez said. "I got into this field because I love to help people. Whether you made the wrong decision or not that's not for me to judge."

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