An LAPD officer became a Christmas hero yesterday when he rescued a 72-year-old man from fiery doom on the 405 freeway in Sherman Oaks.
Dom Thompson, a 26-year veteran of the department, happened to be heading to work on the freeway when he saw a Mercedes veer out of control, hit a center divider, and go up in flames.
He rushed to the vehicle and rescued the man inside within seconds of his last breath:
“He would have burned,” Thompson told KTLA News. “There was no could have to that. He would have died.”
L.A. Fire Department Capt. Cameron Cress agreed. He said this in a statement:
If the LAPD officer had not taken the quick action to rescue that man, this would have been a fatality. The bomb squad officer definitely saved his life.
Thompson was heading south on the 405 just past the 101 in Sherman Oaks in his bomb squad truck when he spotted the crash in opposite (northbound) lanes about 2 p.m., according to LAPD.
He jumped out and rescued the man, fumbling for the seatbelt button and catching it just in time, he said. The LAPD offered this narrative today:
Officer Thompson stopped his bomb squad truck and immediately jumped over the center divider, and ran to the burning vehicle to render aid. The driver of the vehicle was unconscious and still trapped behind the wheel as the flames began to engulf the front seat compartment. The car's interior continued to fill with smoke and flames as Officer Thompson worked feverishly to cut the elderly man free from his seatbelt.
Officer Thompson was able to cut the driver free and pull him out and away from the burning station wagon. Two citizens also stopped and assisted Officer Thompson in pulling the victim further from the fiery crash and to a safer location along the freeway. Within moments, the entire vehicle was fully engulfed in flames …
At the same time an LAFD battalion chief was driving by and called his employees at the emergency dispatch center, which meant a swift response from rescuers, according to KTLA.
The LAPD says Thompson was treated at the scene and later taken to an urgent care treatment center. He suffered “first- and second-degree burns to his hands and leg along with smoke inhalation and abrasions,” the department stated.
The 72-year-old was taken to a hospital with “moderate injuries,” according to the LAPD.
[Update at 2:35 p.m.]: The California Highway Patrol tells us that the rescued driver eventually was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Officer Kevin Tao says he believes the arrest happened after further investigation at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where the driver was being treated.
The man's name has not yet been released.