NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — An off-duty South Carolina police officer has been recognized for rushing to save a woman from a burning vehicle on Interstate 26.
While driving home from a shift at the Mount Pleasant Police Department early in the morning on May 28, Doug Richards, a field training officer, came across a fiery scene around 1:30 a.m.
Body and dash cam video show Richards jumping into action after a car and a truck crashed about 1:30 a.m., causing the car to burst into flames.
“I saw a car that was wrecked in the road,” he said. “I saw a fire in the engine compartment.”
He immediately jumped into action, grabbing a fire extinguisher from his patrol car and running toward the car.
“I went to the vehicle, checked to see if anybody was in the vehicle,” he said. “Didn’t hear anything at first.”
Then, as he worked to put out the fire, Richards said he heard a voice from inside the car. He said the driver’s side door was jammed, so he went around to the passenger side and began talking to the woman to try to calm her.
The video shows some tense moments as the woman calls out for help.
“Are you the only one in the vehicle?” asked Richards.
“Yes I am,” the woman responded.
“I’m gonna try to get you out.”
“I can’t move…I can’t…”
The crash caused the woman’s foot and legs to be wedged under the steering wheel.
“Please help me,” she cried.
“It’s OK, I got you,” Richards responded.
“I don’t wanna die,” the woman said.
Richards finally was able to pull her safely out of the car.
“She was afraid. I wanted to assure her that I was going to do everything I could do to make sure she was safe, to get her out of the vehicle,” he said.
Throughout the ordeal, Richards communicated with dispatch to call for fire and EMS. A good Samaritan also stopped to help.
Richards said his training kicked in and he knew what to do. He said situations like this highlight the importance of first responders always being prepared, even when they’re off-duty.
“Always be prepared. You never know. You can roll up on something when you think you’re going home. You’re checked out ready to get to bed, you’re gonna run into a situation and you gotta be prepared to handle it.”
First responders determined the other driver involved was not injured and did not need to be transported to a hospital.
The woman, whose identity was not shared, was taken to an area hospital.
Richards received a lifesaving award from the Mount Pleasant police and a pin to wear on his uniform to symbolize his heroic actions.