Senior Police Officer Dan Whitney responded to a 3 a.m. highway accident to find an SUV engulfed in flames against a large tree. A man was yelling for help from a small rear driver-side window. Whitney retrieved his fire extinguisher and tried to put out the fire, then began trying to extricate the person trapped in the car. The impact of the accident had bent the frame and all the doors were jammed shut, so Whitney bent the door frame back enough to pull the man through the small rear window. As he was doing this, an explosion from under the hood knocked off his hat and body-worn camera.
The driver of the vehicle (who could not be seen until after the flames were extinguished) burned to death in the fire. Without Whitney’s rescue, the passenger likely would have suffered the same tragic death as the driver, as the backseat was completely melted and gutted within minutes. Other officers on scene described the heat from the fire as unbearable from 50 feet away.