La Crosse firefighters honored two men Wednesday for pulling a man from a burning car and saving his life.
According to the La Crosse Police Department, a car driving on Highway 16 south of Gillette Street spun out of control into oncoming traffic and started on fire Tuesday after 6 p.m. Faster than first responders, bystanders bolted into action and helped pull out the driver from the vehicle in a matter of minutes.
"It was only a matter of seconds really before the whole car was engulfed,” said Frank Segura, one of the men who rescued the driver. “I tried to get the door open and couldn’t, and immediately after that, John showed up to my right.”
Four passengers in the car that was hit were taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the burning car is now facing charges of reckless driving and causing bodily harm. Police said they were all wearing their seatbelts.
The fire department presented Segura and another bystander, John Tellier, with certificates of recognition for their help. Another man, Gary Jahr, assisted both Tellier and Segura in the rescue but was not present at the ceremony.
"I went into the car and undid his seatbelt and got him out,” Tellier said as he described the rescue. “He was unconscious at the time, like a noodle, so we were able to pull him out of the window.”
According to Division Chief Jeff Murphy, firefighters on the scene said if Tellier, Segura and Jahr hadn’t gotten the driver out of the burning car when they did, he likely would have died.
Both firefighters and the men praised for their rescue efforts recognized how critical response time is in situations like Tuesday night’s. That realization is making these two good Samaritans look a little harder at the way they'll spend their own time from now on.
"I started to think about my son,” Tellier said. “[it] puts life into perspective of what's important and what's not, and how soon it can be done just like that."
Ironically, this isn’t the first time Tellier has assisted in a car accident. Several years ago he helped victims in an accident near Goose Island.