Area residents and the fast reaction of Roselle Park officers appear to have saved the life of a 42-year-old man rescued from a burning vehicle.
According to authorities, on May 5th at 7:41 am, Roselle Park Police received several calls reporting that possibly occupied vehicle parked on the 100 Block of West Lincoln Avenue, was making a strange noise and had a visible smoke condition. A subsequent 9-1-1 call reported the vehicle was on fire.
Officers arrived to find the vehicle’s engine compartment engulfed in flames. The vehicle passenger compartment was closed and obscured by dark tinted windows making visibility inside the vehicle impossible.
According to officials, an officer struck and broke a window where he saw what appeared to be the silhouette of a head in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. The officer and a second officer physically removed a male occupant from the vehicle, who was slumped over the steering wheel and dragging him to safety.
Police Chief Paul W. Morrison stated “I would like to commend and thank the alert citizen for first reporting the incident before the fire actually began. This is a great example of, ‘IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.’ Citizens who take an active role in our communities keep us all safe and can actually save lives. Ptl. Robert Harms, Dep. Chief Steven Thompson and the other officers put themselves at great risk of injury to save this man’s life. The heroic efforts of all involved played an instrumental part in the positive outcome of this incident. There could have been a very different and possibly tragic ending to this incident if it had not been for the quick actions of Officer Robert Harms and the heroic act of Harms and Deputy Chief Thompson in risking personal injury to protect the life of another.”
Officials said the 42-year-old male occupant with a last known address in Everett, WA, refused to get out, appeared disoriented and resisted the officer’s efforts to remove him from the burning vehicle. Once outside, driver was alert and speaking.
Police said the man did not suffer any visible serious injuries and was transported to Trinitas Hospital for further evaluation.
Preliminary information indicates the driver has been previously observed sleeping inside of the running vehicle for extended hours and may have pressed on the gas pedal for an extended period of time causing the engine to overheat and eventually catch fire.
The scene was turned over to the Union County Arson Squad and the Union County Sheriff’s Crime Scene and Identification Unit for further investigation.