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Video: Minn. Good Samaritans, first responders save driver in burning car

Sam Orbovich was unconscious, trapped in his burning car on I-94 in St. Paul

By Tim Harlow
Star Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sam Orbovich sat in his vehicle, unconscious and trapped, as it burned while sitting along Interstate 94 in St. Paul.

Orbovich, 71, snapped to consciousness as the window on his Honda shattered. An impromptu rescue was underway by a group that included both passersby and a driver from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Freeway Incident Response Safety Team — formerly called the Highway Helper. They pulled him to safety.

“I am alive today because several good Samaritans and professional first responders saved my life,” Orbovich said of the Thursday night incident. “It is incredibly heroic when people driving down the highway choose to put themselves at risk by running toward the flames to extract a stranger from a burning car that could explode at any moment.”

Events unfolded about 6:30 p.m. on eastbound I-94 near the Snelling Avenue exit, when Orbovich’s SUV swerved to the right, struck a lamp post and guardrail and burst into flames.

Kadir Tolla stopped and ran to the vehicle. Tolla tried to get Orbovich out but could not get the door open because it was blocked by the guardrail. Just then a MnDOT worker showed up and broke the car window. Together with several others who stopped, they pulled Orbovich out, feet first.

Orbovich suffered minor injuries.

Images of the rescue captured by Tolla’s car video went viral on social media.

” The State Patrol is grateful that the driver is OK due to the heroic actions of the individuals who stopped to help,” Lt. Jill Frankfurth said. “The actions of those who pulled this motorist from the burning car demonstrates the importance and willingness of people throughout Minnesota looking out for each other. We are thankful everyone remained safe.”

Frankfurth said crises along the highway can happen anytime and anywhere, and serve as good reminder to motorists to remain vigilant.

An attorney who has represented caregivers in Minnesota for over 40 years, Orbovich said he was not surprised to see well-trained professionals step up to save a life or protect others from harm. But it’s especially touching, he said, to see everyday citizens step up, too.

For now, Orbovich sends his thanks to all those who risked their lives to save his.

“My family and I are incredibly grateful for these heroes,” Orbovich said. “I look forward to thanking them all in person.”

In the video below, Gordon Graham discusses how to manage a highway traffic collision.

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