BARNEGAT, N.J. (CBS) – With an 86-year-old man trapped inside a burning car, there were just seconds to act.
“I inhaled a bunch of smoke,” said Barnegat Patrolman Nicholas Venuto.
He was first on the scene, followed by officers George Martin and Andrew Parsley.
“Officer Martin, I remember him yelling out, ‘We got to get him out, we got to get him out,’“ said Officer Parsley.
It all happened on Route 72 westbound.
Agnelo Pereira of Waretown lost control of his car and veered off into thick brush.
His car caught on fire.
The 86-year-old was barely conscious and his foot was stuck on the accelerator. The wheels were spinning.
“I was getting hit with all types of debris. I felt it bouncing off my chest and my legs,” said Officer Venuto.
“I climbed in the vehicle to get to the other side of him to unlatch his seatbelt. At that point in the interior of the vehicle
was fully engulfed in flames,” Officer Martin said.
Patrolmen Martin suffered second degree burns to his arms Friday night.
In the smoke, fire, chaos and heat the Barnegat officers struggled to get the 200 pound man out of the car.
“He had significant injuries to his arms which prevented us from getting a grasp on him. His shirt kept ripping. We were trying to get him out,” Officer Martin said.
Finally the three veteran officers pulled the man out, dragging him out of the brush and attended to his medical needs.
The 86-year-old driver had to be rushed to an area hospital with severe burns to both of his arms as well as injuries to his ribs and shoulder. However, indications are he should live.
“We are very happy with the outcome that the gentleman is expected to recover completely,” Officer Parsley said.
“This is what we do. This is what we sign up for. Our number got called we had to act. Anybody would’ve done the same thing,” Officer Venuto said.