Three Justin Police Reserve officers returning from picking up out-of-state patrol vehicles were on the spot to rescue a man who was trapped in an overturned, smoking car along an Arizona highway.
Officers Jose Gallardo, Luciano Zelvaggio and Emmanuel Gonzalez were driving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday and Sunday to return two Ford Explorer police cars that were no longer available in California.
They were making their return trip on Monday when they were suddenly called into work.
The three officers were driving on Interstate 40 and were passing through Kingman, Arizona when they noticed a woman standing along the highway frantically waving a white cloth trying to get someone to stop.
Officers stopped to assist and observed that a 2018 Toyota Tacoma crew cab truck had crashed and flipped onto its side in a field adjacent to the interstate.
“They quickly realized that someone was trapped in the debris,” Justin Police Chief Ruben Chavez said. “Officers Zelvaggio and Gallardo ran to the car and heard a man screaming for help who feared he was going to die.”
Smoke was billowing from the Toyota’s engine compartment as officers tried to help the trapped man.
“Realizing that they were facing a life-or-death situation, they quickly worked together to smash the passenger windows and cut the seat belt,” Chavez said. “Meanwhile, Officer Gonzalez began slowing traffic and talking to passing truck drivers to get a fire extinguisher. He successfully obtained one.”
The angle of the crushed truck, combined with the man’s inability to free himself, made the rescue difficult, but the three officers worked together and were able to free the man in about five minutes. All the while, the smoke continued to grow and officers feared it might explode at any moment, Chavez said.
“The officers took the victim to the back of the new police car and continued to calm him down and confirmed that he was okay,” Chavez said. “They assessed his injuries and gave him water.”
About 10 minutes later, Arizona Department of Public Safety officers arrived to take over the investigation.
The man suffered several moderate injuries and was transported to a local hospital by ambulance.
“They were very grateful for the quick actions of our officers,” Chavez said.
“There is no doubt that the officers put their lives on the line with the possibility of a car exploding and bursting into flames,” Chavez said. “This kind of dedication and commitment to helping those in need is the same spirit that emanated from the police officers and firefighters who died 22 years ago on this day,” he said, referring to the anniversary of September 11, 2001.