News Photographer Honored for Saving Driver From Fiery Freeway Crash

Austin Raishbrook says it was a three-to-four minute experience that'll stick with him his entire life.

A news photographer was honored Wednesday after he became the story, jumping into action to help save a man's life after his car burst into flames.

Austin Raishbrook says it was a three-to-four minute experience that'll stick with him his entire life. He owns a stringer company, which are photographers who cover news overnight then sell their footage to news stations.

This past New Year's Eve turned out to be anything but a routine night for Raishbrook.

A stalled car on the 110 freeway was rear-ended by another car with such force, the stalled car burst into flames. In that split second Raishbrook went from photographer to rescuer.

"I just put my camera down. Didn't think twice about it," Raishbrook said.

He ran across the freeway and saw an unconscious driver in the burning car.

"The flames were already above his head -- heavy smoke in the car," he recalled.

Raishbrook says a fire extinguisher did nothing to help put out the fire but he did use it to smash the car window.

"I was in there with the thick wall of black smoke, so I felt my way around his waist to see if he was buckled in. He was and it was jammed," he said.

A jammed seat belt didn't stop him. He managed to pull the driver out of the burning car and with the help of his coworker, pull him to safety.

"I went through range of emotions, heart pounding, to complete elation, that moment when victim was out of the car -- I'm probably never going to feel that again," he said.

The California Highway Patrol honored him Wednesday for his heroic actions.

"It is my distinct honor Austin, to present you with CHP's outstanding community service award for bravery," Capt. Charlie Sampson said at the ceremony.

With his proud parents and step-parents watching via Skype from London, Raishbrook humbly accepted the award and said the true heroes are those in law enforcement.

"You guys are out there day and night putting your lives on the line," Raishbrook said as he choked back tears.

He also revealed a detail about the man whose life he saved.

"I didn't know his name until I heard it today. Obviously I'd love to meet the guy," he said.

The CHP says officers haven't been able to contact the driver, 43-year-old Arnoldo Quezada.

Raishbrook says he doesn't think Quezada owes him anything, he simply wants to shake his hand.

Contact Us