An Orange County sheriff's deputy says he did not know why the driver made no effort to get out of a burning taxi, but he was not going to let the man die. The deputy is now being hailed a hero and the whole heroic rescue was captured by a dash camera in the deputy’s patrol vehicle. Vikki Vargas reports from Yorba Linda for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 22, 2013.
A deputy saved a 49-year-old man from a burning car in Yorba Linda after the driver appears to have suffered from diabetic shock.
Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Shayne Stiefel and his partner Gilbert Lascurain were on patrol at 2:45 a.m. July 18 when they spotted a taxi cab near Bastanchury Road and Clydesdale Drive that looked like it had been in a collision.
A dashboard camera in the patrol car captured the dramatic rescue, embedded below. The deputies yell -- then plead -- for the driver to get out of the car.
"The cab’s undercarriage was smoking profusely," Stiefel told NBC4 Monday. "There were sparks flying and a fire started to ignite."
As the deputies approached the car, they noticed a man inside who appeared coherent and unharmed. However, the driver would not respond to the officers’ commands and instead floored the gas pedal and lit a cigarette.
The deputies drew their weapons.
"It got to the point where we didn’t know what we were dealing with," Stiefel said. "In law enforcement, when you can't see someone's hands, you're not comfortable."
As the driver continued to ignore the officers, the car’s passenger side became engulfed in flames and the rubber from the tires started to melt, Stiefel said.
That’s when the deputies decided to take action. Stiefel broke the car’s window, cut the man’s seatbelt and pulled him to safety.
Dashcam video shows the deputy dragging the driver's limp body across the street, away from the still-burning cab. Stiefel said the driver appeared to be awake during the rescue.
Paramedics on the scene said the man could have possibly suffered a diabetic shock, Stiefel said.
He remained in the hospital Monday.