Newly released body camera footage shows police officers and bystanders race to rescue two men trapped in the burning wreckage of a car crash on Interstate 676 in Camden, New Jersey, this month.
Camden County Police Department officers Vaughn Edwards, Joseph Mair, Brian McCline and Vincent Russomanno were honored Friday. They shattered windows and withstood the heat of the fire as flames engulfed the vehicles and began burning the drivers trapped inside in the April 7 crash, county spokesman Dan Keashen said.
Though the men in the crash suffered "extensive" burns, things could have been a lot worse but for the officers, Keashan said. Aided by Delaware River Port Authority police Officer Franklin Flash and various bystanders, the officials pulled the men away from the wreckage just before the flames fully engulfed their cars.
"Your adrenaline's rushing, but at the end of the day you have a job to do and you don't want anyone getting hurt. Our motto here is, 'Service before self,' so we have to put that before ourselves," Edwards said.
Body camera video from one of the officers shows him running toward the crash as flames rise from the wreckage, with other officers and bystanders already at the scene trying to free a trapped driver.
"I gotta get the door. I gotta get the door," someone shouts. "Pull, pull, pull," others shout as they drag the man by the legs away from the car.
The rescuers' attention then turns to another trapped person.
"Give me your hand, give me your hand," an officer shouts. A hand reaches out through the flames as another officer repeatedly uses his baton to shatter the windshield and create an escape point.
The flames continue to race through the vehicle until an officer and a bystander are able to pull the man out.
At one point during the frantic rescue, Russomanno said he didn't notice his uniform caught fire, though he had a lighthearted recollection of the situation when he and his fellow officers were honored Friday.
"I definitely didn't tell my fiancée that I was on fire," he said.
Likewise, McCline initially kept details of the recue from loved ones. "I didn't tell my mom because she worries about me, so I didn't want to make her more nervous than she already is," he said.
The officers also freed two other men from an SUV involved in the crash that caught fire, Keashan said.
The department now hopes the Good Samaritans who helped in the recue will come forward so they too can be recognized for their bravery.
"These people could have been a mailman, an accountant a real estate agent, and yet they stopped and put their lives on the line to help their fellow man," CCPD Lt. John Martinez said.