New Jersey

See It: 3 Pull NJ Driver From Flaming Car in Dramatic Rescue

Police in Ridgefield Park released bodycam footage of the daring rescue

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A New Jersey man found himself trapped inside a burning car after some sort of electrical malfunction over the weekend, and police body cameras captured the daring rescue.

Ridgefield Park police officers dispatched to a report of a car fire on Winant Avenue around 2 a.m. Saturday found the victim, 54-year-old Chris Vagnone from Fort Lee, stuck inside his Honda. Flames were coming out of the front of the vehicle at the time, authorities said.

"He was panicked, and I just told him, 'You have to get out of the car, you have to unlock the car," said Ridgefield Police Sergeant Nicolas Triano.

Officers couldn't open the car doors to pull out the trapped driver. The sergeant on the scene ran to his patrol vehicle and grabbed a halogen tool to try to force his way inside the car, while two other officers arrived on scene and tried to yank Vagnone out through the front driver's side window. But flames had started to spread within the car.

"It was an unfortunate situation that the electrical system failed," said Patrolman Nicolas D'Alto. "We couldn’t open any of the doors...we tried several times to get the doors open."

The heat was too much, authorities said. Officers used fire extinguishers to contain the flames long enough so that others could grab Vagnone and pull him from the passenger side of the vehicle.

"It’s difficult, especially when the flames are coming in, there’s glass. We know time is not on our side at that point," D'Alto said.

Battling intense heat, broken glass and other physical barriers, three police officers from Ridgefield Park managed to pull him out -- just as flames began to consume the interior of the car, officials said. Triano, who was wearing the body camera, broke the front passenger window, while D'Alto pulled the man out of the burning car, which had become engulfed in flames.

Vagnone was moved away from the flames and treated at the scene before being released to a family member, officials said. He suffered minor burns, and was recovering at home.

"It was all very traumatic, everything happened very fast. Now I just want to move forward and be thankful that I made it out thanks to those officers from the Ridgefield Park Police Department," Vagnone told NBC New York.

Neither of the officers were injured in the rescue.

Authorities also thanked a good Samaritan from New York, identified as Elias Rodriguez, whom they said stopped to help officers in the rescue effort.

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