National News

Mar 26, 2013 12:28 PM by NBC News

Caught on Cam: Dramatic rescue

(WKYC) Three Euclid, Ohio police officers are credited with saving the life of a man trapped in a burning truck.

The 911 call came in Saturday, just before 11 a.m. A man was driving a pickup truck southbound, when he crossed the yellow line, hit a light pole, then doubled back across the road and scraped through landscaping before coming to a stop.

Three officers from the Euclid Police Department arrived on scene before fire fighters. The pickup was pouring smoke and engulfed in rapidly growing flames.

"I could see the man's hand on top of the vehicle, and right then and there I radioed dispatch to have fire and rescue step it up," said Euclid Police Officer Jose Alcantara.

Officers Alcantara, Adam Beese and Corey Screngi used batons to break the windows on the pickup cab, and release billowing smoke.

One of the policemen then ran to the driver's side, and used a knife to cut the seatbelt and free the unresponsive driver.

"If it would have taken us a minute more to get there, he would have died in that engulfed vehicle," said Alcantara.

Firefighters got there soon after, and quickly extinguished the flames.

But Platoon Chief Will Anderson of the Euclid Fire Departmentsays, had the police not arrived when they did, it would likely have been too late to save the man.

"After watching the video footage, there was a 60-90 second period of time where the cab of the vehicle was not in flames yet. That was where Euclid police went to work and basically saved this individual's life," said Anderson.

The entire rescue was caught on camera.

The Euclid Police Department is testing new technology in patrol cameras: small devices the size of a AA battery, that clip onto glasses.

It allows the officers to record exactly what they see, and in this case, that meant a dramatic rescue.

That driver was taken to Hillcrest Hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released.

None of the officers suffered injuries in the rescue.

As for what caused the crash: police say the driver was under the influence of drugs, and lost control of his vehicle.

38-year-old Zahrod Tolbert is charged with reckless operation of a vehicle and OVI.

"I think the driver of that vehicle was very lucky that we had plenty of units in the area to get there as fast as we did, and to get him out of that vehicle before he would have engulfed with the vehicle in flames and lost his life," said Alcantara.

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