An Orange County deputy pulled a driver from a taxi that was on fire last week in Yorba Linda. A video of the dramatic incident was released by the O.C. Sheriff’s Department on Monday and is now available online.
At around 2:35 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Bastanchury Road and Clydesdale Avenue, Deputy Shayne Stiefel was on routine patrol with a training officer when they encountered a distressed Chrysler minivan taxi.
Looking into the van the officers noticed that the driver was pressing down on the accelerator forcing the wheels to keep spinning even after they had melted off. Friction from the wheels caused liquid leaking from the vehicle to catch fire.
OC Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jeff Hallock told reporters that the taxi had its front end stuck on a curb and wedged against a no-parking sign. Smoke, sparks and flames were coming from underneath the vehicle.
Stiefel shouted a few commands to the driver, one of which instructed him to get out of the vehicle. Allegedly disoriented, the driver remained in the taxi and attempted to light a cigarette ignoring the deputy’s commands.
Deputy Stiefel reported that he drew his weapon because it appeared the driver was preparing to flee the scene or was suicidal. But when the flames began to engulf the taxi he put his gun away and pulled out a knife. He reached into the taxi van through the open window and cut away the driver’s seatbelt and then pulled the man to safety.
Emergency respondents took the driver to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, but the status of his condition was not released to the public. It was later discovered that the driver had suffered and acute medical emergency and could not respond to the deputy’s commands.
Hallock was glad that the deputies were doing their job and were in the right place at the right time to rescue the driver. “If we weren’t patrolling the streets, he could have burned to death,” he told reporters.
After the incident was over, Steiefel recognized that the incident was very bizarre and he doesn’t consider himself a hero. “It was one of the wildest things I have come across,” he said.
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