ROSELLE PARK, NJ — A Roselle Park police officer and a firefighter dragged a man to safety from a burning car after residents reported the parked vehicle on fire, police said.
The 42-year-old male occupant, who was not identified beyond having a last known address from Everett, Wash., did not suffer any visible injuries, according to a press release from the Roselle Park police on May 8. Once removed from the vehicle, he was alert and speaking, and was transported to Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth for further evaluation.
The incident, caught on a Roselle Park police body cam video and posted online, began at 7:41 a.m. on May 5, when emergency services received several calls concerning a vehicle parked on the 100 Block of West Lincoln Avenue.
Initially, a caller reported a strange noise coming from the vehicle along with smoke and said the car was possibly occupied. Subsequent 9-1-1 calls reported the vehicle on fire. Four patrolmen arrived to find the vehicle’s engine compartment engulfed in flames. The car doors were closed and and dark tinted windows made visibility inside the vehicle impossible.
Patrolman Robert Harms broke a window to see inside the vehicle, which had filled with thick black smoke, noticed the silhouette of a head in the driver’s seat and proceeded to open the driver’s door and, with the help of Deputy Fire Chief No. 2 Steven Thompson, dragged out the man, who had been slumped over the steering wheel.
The man in the driver’s seat refused to get out of the car and resisted efforts to extricate him, according to reports.
“I would like to commend and thank the alert citizen for first reporting the incident before the fire actually began,” police Chief Paul Morrison said in the release. “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.”
The scene was turned over to the Union County Arson Squad and the Union County Sheriff’s Crime Scene and Identification Unit for investigation. Preliminary information indicated the driver has reportedly been previously observed sleeping inside of the running vehicle for extended hours, and may have pressed on the accelerator for an extended period of time, causing the engine to overheat and catch fire.