Witness risked life to help save man from burning vehicle

The victim of a car fire is still recovering from his injuries, and as he does, the heroics of two Mesquite police officers and a witness are becoming clearer.

Zach Shipman was heading to the East Coast from Dallas when he saw a car on fire in the service lanes of eastbound I-30 early Sunday.

"We saw a car that was spun out…and there was a fire in the engine compartment," Shipman told FOX 4 by phone on Tuesday.

The driver of the car on fire, 25-year-old Hector Valles, was slumped over.

"There's a body in there!" Shipman said in a phone call to a 911 operator.

"Sir, can they not get out because they are trapped, or they can't get out…?" said the operator.

"They can't get out because they're unconscious, but he is breathing," said Shipman.

At the same time, another witness called 911.

"The car is in flames right now," the second caller said to a 911 operator. "You need to get someone over here real quick!"

Worried that the car might explode, the caller warned Shipman to stay back, but Shipman wouldn't.

"All I could think about was, ‘What if that was me in there or one of my family members?'" said Shipman. "I would at least want somebody to try."

A logistics specialist in the Navy and first responder onboard a ship, Shipman is experienced in first aid.

With Mesquite police officers Ryan Nielson and Autumn Soto leading the way, they all dragged Valles to safety.

"I saw that they were struggling, pulling him out, so I ran over there and tried to assist as much as I could," said Shipman. "I helped pull him out. I grabbed, I think, an arm and a leg, and he was on fire whenever we were pulling him out."

Shipman says the second 911 caller came up to him late, in disbelief.

"He was like, ‘Man, you sure were brave,'" said Shipman. "I said, ‘Man, you gotta think about it this way: if that was you in there, then you'd want somebody to help you."

The driver's leg is badly burned and he's undergone multiple surgeries for internal injuries, though he's been able to open his eyes. He remains in ICU.       


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