Video: Officers in Charles Co. save man after fiery car crash

WASHINGTON — After a car crash led to a fire that seemed never to go out, quick-thinking Charles County Sheriff’s officers saved the driver and have earned praise for their actions.

On Jan. 29, M/Cpl. Don Kabala was helping with a DWI arrest at a car dealership on Route 301 in Waldorf just after 3:30 a.m. when he heard some awful sounds.

“I heard skids and I heard a crash,” he told WTOP.

An SUV had hit a pole and caught fire on Route 301, just a short distance away.

“When I pulled out of the parking lot, it was probably 1,000 feet, 800 feet maybe,” Kabala said.

He got to the scene quickly and sprayed his fire extinguisher. Two other officers arrived shortly and also tried to put out the fire, but the driver’s legs were pinned under the dashboard and the flames were stubborn.

“Every time we would douse it, it would die down (and) give us a couple seconds to try to work him free, and then it would fire back up again,” Kabala said.

Eventually, the two other officers, Pfc. Eric Scuderi and Pfc. Christopher Morris, pulled the driver out. The 32-year-old man from Clinton had multiple injuries, but none were life threatening.

Amid fire and smoke, Kabala then entered the SUV to make sure no one else was inside. He says there really was no time to think about his own safety. “Any of the guys I work with would have done the same thing,” Kabala said.

He and the other officers used up five fire extinguishers trying to keep the flames at bay, but the fire kept burning until the fire department arrived and finally put it out.

“The engine had become dislodged, so I knew that the reason that we kept having the fires flare up (was) because the gas line had been spilling out,” Kabala said.

In a press release, Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry praised the three officers: “I’m proud of these officers for taking quick actions to rescue the driver. They did what officers often do in dangerous situations and set aside any fear they may have had and helped save this man.”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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