Rescuers Describe Saving Utah Man From Burning Car

Sep 14, 2011 10:14am

The construction workers who rushed to a burning car to save the life of a 21-year-old man say the adrenaline of the situation overwhelmed any sense of fear for their own lives.

“Everybody was just reacting. It happened so fast,” Lee Christensen said today on “Good Morning America.”  “Everybody just worked together and we got him out of there.”

Christensen and fellow construction worker Albin Mocevic are two of the dozen bystanders now being hailed as heroes for saving the life of Utah State University student Brandon Wright on Monday after a dramatic and fiery crash.

Wright was driving his motorcycle just outside the campus in Logan, Utah, around noon on Monday when a black BMW pulled out in front of him, Logan police told Salt Lake City’s ABC 4.

The bike hit the car’s hood and bounced to the ground, while Wright, who was not wearing a helmet, slid under the car and became trapped. Both vehicles then burst into flames.

Christensen and Mocevic were working at a construction site on the fourth floor of a nearby campus building when they heard the crash and saw Wright’s motorcycle go up in flames.

Not knowing what danger they were going into, the two men threw down their tools and ran to help.

“We heard a scratching noise, kind of like an accident,” Christensen told “GMA.” “We could see the bike and it burst into flames and we decided we better go down and check it out.”

When Christensen and Mocevic arrived at the scene, a crowd of eight or nine people, according to Christensen, was already working to lift the burning car, while other bystanders flooded 911 with calls.

“Looks like someone might be under the vehicle. Cars are burning. You better send somebody out here,” the caller said, according to tape played on ABC 4.

Despite the dangers posed by the fire – “I think it’s going to go right now,” one caller said to 911 dispatch – Christensen and Mocevic joined others in lifting the burning car.

“I really wasn’t thinking about it,” Christensen said of the dangers posed by the burning flames. “I was more worried about getting the kid out from under the car.”

“I know it sounds weird because now I’ve seen the video,” he added.  “I didn’t realize I was that close to the flame.”

Mocevic recalled how light the vehicle itself felt, thanks to the urgency of the situation and the help of so many strangers.

“It wasn’t too heavy because there were so many helping out there,” he said today on “GMA.”

The dramatic video, shot by university staffer Chris Garff, shows Christensen, wearing his construction vest and gear, pulling Wright’s limp body from underneath the car.

“I remember hearing somebody say ‘Pull him out, pull him out,’ and, when I looked under there, the only thing I could get to was his leg,” he said. “I was kind of concerned about pulling him out but I knew he had to be out of there so I made the choice to pull him out.”

Once firefighters arrived they were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, while Wright was flown by helicopter to nearby Intermountain Medical Center in critical condition.

Wright’s mother and stepfather told ABC News Tuesday, just one day after the crash, their son was alert and aware of everything that happened.

Wright himself expressed gratitude later that day for the help of strangers who came to his rescue. “I’m just very thankful for everyone that helped me out,” Wright told The Associated Press by telephone from his hospital bed. “They saved my life.”

At a hospital news conference on Tuesday, Wright’s uncle, Tyler Riggs, said his nephew told the family that he felt scared and could see and feel the flames.

“He remembers being under the car, spitting up blood and not being able to talk,” Riggs said.

Riggs said Wright has not yet seen the video that captured the bystanders’ heroic efforts and has gone viral on the Internet.

Doctors placed rods in Wright’s legs during surgery Monday night.

Now in “satisfactory” condition, according to the hospital, Wright is expected to remain in the hospital for at least another three to four days to recover from a broken femur, broken tibia, broken pelvis, burns on his left foot and abrasions to his forehead.

“It just really restores your faith to have seen what happened yesterday,” Riggs said Tuesday of the actions of good samaritans like Christensen and Mocevic. “We are extremely grateful.”

The driver of the BMW, John Johnson, a USU business school official, suffered only minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation and police have not decided whether any charges will be filed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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