NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – To protect and serve, it’s a motto for law enforcement across the country – and that motto became a real-life action when an off-duty Mount Pleasant officer rushed to save a woman from a burning vehicle on I-26.
Driving home from a shift at the Mt. Pleasant Police Department early in the morning on May 28th, Field Training Officer Doug Richards came across a fiery scene around 1:30 a.m. on I-26 near exit 209.
A car crashed with another truck causing the car to burst into flames.
“I saw a car that was wrecked in the road. I saw a fire in the engine compartment,” said FTO Richards.
He immediately jumped into action grabbing a fire extinguisher from his patrol car and running towards the car. “I went to the vehicle, checked to see if anybody was in the vehicle, didn’t hear anything at first,” he recalled.
But while FTO Richards worked to put out the fire, he heard a voice from inside the car.
“Felt like I might have gotten the fire out, went back around and heard somebody inside, made my way to the passenger side cause the driver’s side wouldn’t open and there was a female inside,” he said.
Body and dash cam footage from FTO Richards shows the tense moments and calls for help from the woman.
“Are you the only one in the vehicle?” asked FTO 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 get wedged under the steering wheel.
“Please help me,” she cried.
“It’s okay, I got you,” FTO Richards responded.
“I don’t wanna die.”
The two worked together to loosen the grip and FTO Richards was able to pull her out to safety.
“She was afraid. I wanted to ensure 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 situation, FTO Richards communicated with dispatch to call for fire and EMS. A good samaritan also stopped to help.
FTO 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 with News 2, was taken to an area hospital.
FTO Richards received a Life Saving Award from the Mt. Pleasant Police Department and a pin to wear on his uniform to symbolize his heroic actions.