BOYLE HEIGHTS, Calif. (KTLA) — Two LAPD officers are being hailed as heroes after they rescued a pursuit suspect from a burning car.
It happened on the night of February 6 on the 10 Freeway near the East L.A. Interchange in Boyle Heights.
KTLA’s Sky5 was overhead as the suspect’s car skidded out of control, slammed into a guardrail and then burst into flames.
LAPD officers Erick Sinkovitz and Luis Rivera were in the primary unit behind the suspect.
It was the first pursuit for both officers, and they pulled up just seconds after the impact.
“I saw the vehicle in flames. My first thought was that he was ejected,” Rivera said.
“We just saw the debris, we just saw the car on fire… We were just looking for him somewhere on the freeway,” Sinkovitz recalled.
It wasn’t until they approached the car that they saw the driver was actually still inside.
“He’s unconscious in the car. He’s moving, but he’s not responsive,” Rivera said.
“He was semi-conscious, he was kind of tangled up in his seatbelt,” Sinkovitz echoed.
“The fire was spreading real fast, you can see it right in front of you,” Rivera said.
“But again, you don’t have time to think. It’s just react at that point, just try to get him out as fast as possible and retreat,” he added.
“We all just grabbed limbs and just pulled him out,” Sinkovitz said.
Less than three minutes after 34-year-old Juan Carlos Sandoval was rescued, his red Chevy Camaro was engulfed in flames.
“We knew we had to act fast, but it’s the first flaming car I’ve seen, so I didn’t know it was going to engulf that fast,” Sinkovitz remarked.
Despite putting themselves at risk to make the rescue, both officers shied away from the “hero” moniker.
“It was a team effort. A lot of guys came in, a lot of guys I didn’t even know. They were running toward the fire just like we were,” Sinkovitz recalled.
“When we get there it’s just instinct,” Rivera insisted. “You have to act, time is of the essence. You see him and you just do your job.”