A bomb squad officer and good Samaritans rescued a trapped driver who was stuck inside of a flaming car on the San Diego (405) Freeway on Wednesday, police said.
The 72-year-old driver crashed his Mercedes Benz station wagon into the concrete divider on the northbound 405 Freeway near the Ventura (101) Freeway in Sherman Oaks about 1:45 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
The car burst into flames and sent thick clouds of smoke into the sky. Other drivers who saw the crash pulled over to help, along with a member of the Los Angeles Police Department's bomb squad.
"It doesn't feel real when you're doing something like that," said LAPD Bomb Squad Officer Don Thompson, who was driving south on the 405 Freeway when he saw the crash.
"You know you have to do something and save someone's life, or you're going to watch someone burn to death alive. You have to do what you have to do," he said.
Thompson unbuckled the unconscious man's seatbelt and pulled him to safety as the good Samaritans helped.
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"He only had maybe 10, 15 seconds to be saved. Just out of the grace of God I was there," Thompson said. "We had some good Samaritans there. He made it."
Flames and black smoke could be seen pouring into the air as they rushed to carry the man to safety.
Light Christmas Day traffic turned into an hours-long backup from Sherman Oaks to West LA as officials cleaned up the wreckage.
The man was taken to the hospital and survived, CHP officials said. The officer was treated for minor burn injuries.
It was not clear what caused the driver to crash.