Man rescued from car by off-duty Carmel Police officer and a Marine seconds before it caught fire

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CARMEL, Ind. — On Wednesday afternoon, the Carmel Fire Department responded to the area of E. 116th Street and Keystone Parkway, where they found a car fully engulfed.

Carmel Fire Department public information officer, Tim Griffin, said what firefighters learned when they got there was that prior to their arrival, several people had pulled the driver, who was unconscious, from the car before it burst into flames.

“Had it not been for their intervention, it probably would have been a much worse outcome,” said Griffin.

Off-duty Carmel Police officer, Ana-Consuelo Vazquez, said she was on her way home from training and was yielding at the intersection when a car passed by her and crashed into a brick wall.

“Everything kind of happened very quickly,” said Vazquez, who was recently hired by the Carmel Police Department.

“I immediately just got out of my car, ran up to the vehicle to see what was going on. I saw smoke immediately coming from the vehicle, so I knew I had to act quickly,” she continued.

Julian Hodges, a sergeant who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than seven years and is currently an account manager at BAM Outdoor in Westfield, said he was driving in the roundabout when he noticed smoke pouring from a car that had crashed. He pulled over to help.

“I saw a young lady trying to get the passenger door open. What I know now is that was Carmel Police officer Ana Vazquez,” he said.

“I said, ‘is there anyone in the car?’ She said, ‘there’s a guy in there I can’t get the door open,’” said Hodges.

Hodges was finally able to get the driver’s door open. The pair said they knew time wasn’t on their side and they had to act quickly.

“We were able to, together, get the car open. It was pretty bad damage, smoke everywhere,” said Vazquez.

“I said, we’ve gotta get him out of here the car’s gonna catch on fire and just basically grab what you can,’” said Hodges. “We told the gentleman, we said, ‘we’re getting you out of here now’ and drug him out of the car as quick as we could.”

Once they got the man safely away from the car, two more strangers came over to help.

Vazquez said, “After that, it was pretty incredible — the community response. Two nurses, unsure where they work, but they were in their scrubs, they ran up, didn’t even see where they came from, but they ran up immediately.”

She said they began to render aid to the man immediately, even using a medical kit to wrap his wounds.

“Their sacrifice and kind of their selfless act really helped that individual,” said Griffin, talking about the entire situation.

“It was pretty incredible just to see within that time frame — a couple seconds before the fire department, the police department got there — the community came together, and we were able to help that male out,” said Vazquez. “It was pretty incredible to see people with different experiences, backgrounds.”

Vazquez isn’t from the Carmel area, but she calls it her new home, and said witnessing the way the community came together was the perfect welcome.

She formerly served on another police department before transferring to Carmel and said she credits her training with both and resorted back to those instincts when she saw the situation at hand.

“Had our four worlds not collided in that intersection at that very moment, I think we would have a different story,” said Hodges.

“They saw someone in need and immediately reacted and really had it not been that quick reaction, I truly think, and from what we could see like I said the outcome could have been so much worse,” Griffin shared.

“These are individuals that will never look to take the credit or ask for it, they just saw someone in need and wanted to help because that’s what engrained in them as an officer, as a marine, I think that’s something that’s just built in them.”

Both Hodges and Vazquez said what they did wasn’t heroic and instead, deferred the credit to the other.

“It was just a very humbling experience, a reminder that life is fragile and most importantly, there’s so many good people,” said Hodges. “I’m not a hero, but I do think she is.”

Hodges said now that he knows Vazquez’ background, he isn’t surprised that she jumped in, without hesitation, to help.

“Her taking action and diving right in made other people help out,” he said. “In my opinion, they [Carmel Police Department] got it right on this one. She’s a great hire and it wouldn’t surprise me if you hear about her continuing to do great things,” he continued.

Vazquez said she believes Hodges’ actions were critical to getting the man out of the car safely and quickly.

“I don’t think I could’ve done it without him because of how quick everything was,” she shared. “He played a crucial part of how quickly we were able to get him out of the car before it was immediately engulfed in flames.”

“Two people is always better than one to get someone out of the vehicle, especially if they’re unresponsive,” said Vazquez. This is something the pair can likely both agree on.

“It’s not something that you just do while you’re at work, it’s truly who these individuals are and I think it can make us all proud to know that they’re out there, helping to keep us safe,” said Griffin.

Griffin also shared that as firefighters arrived, an IMPD officer stopped to help control traffic and block off the scene.

Griffin said it’s not recommended to put yourself or any other people at risk by running towards a dangerous situation, however, in this case, all of those involved with the rescue used their real-life training, to save a life.

He hopes this encourages people to do good things in their community and help others. Griffin said that doesn’t need to be rescuing someone, it could be something as simple as smiling or saying hello to somebody in the grocery store.

“I think right now, more than ever, we could need that as a society,” he said.

The victim was transported from the scene to the hospital. His condition remains unknown at this time.

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