A videographer who was on the scene of an accident on the Harbor (110) Freeway in South Los Angeles early this morning pulled a man from a burning car and helped save his life.
Austin Raishbrook, an owner of RMG News, was working as a videographer New Year's Eve and early New Year's morning, driving north on the 110 Freeway between Gage and Florence avenues at about 3:30 a.m., he told City News Service. RMG is a family-owned business, he said.
In one of the lanes was a stalled dark-colored SUV. Raishbrook pulled near it and put his strobe light on the vehicle and turned his emergency lights on to warn oncoming drivers about the SUV since all its lights were off.
"It was completely blacked out," Raishbrook told CNS. "Unfortunately, some of the drivers didn't see the vehicle. First, it was side-swiped by two vehicles and then it was rear-ended by a vehicle I estimate was going at least 65 miles per hour."
Raishbrook said the impact sent the SUV careening into the center divider where it burst into flames. Raishbrook was videotaping the crash, but he said he dropped his camera when the vehicle started burning.
"I didn't know if anyone was in the SUV because it was all dark, but I grabbed my fire extinguisher and flashlight and ran to the burning car," Raishbrook continued.
"I smashed the passenger side window with my fire extinguisher and looked in but the car was nearly fully engulfed and it was hard to see through the smoke," he said. "Finally, I saw there was a man slumped over the steering wheel.
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"So I ran to the driver's side and tried to smash that window but I couldn't do it," he said. "Finally, somehow I pried open the door and saw the man was strapped in with his seat belt. By then the smoke was so thick, I couldn't breathe too well."
Raishbrook said he backed off, took a deep breath and went back in to try and pull the man out.
"I finally got his shoulder strap off and began yanking the man out," Raishbrook said. "It was pretty harrowing and there were a lot of split-second decisions I had to make, but I finally got him out of the SUV."
Raishbrook's heroism might have saved the man's life, as the driver was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive his injuries, fire officials said.
"I didn't realize how close it was until one of the CHP officers told me my hair was singed from the fire," he added.
The California Highway Patrol confirmed a fiery accident took place near Florence Avenue on the northbound 110 Freeway at about 3:30 a.m.