An off-duty Montgomery County, Maryland, police officer and a Montgomery County resident rescued a 61-year-old woman from a burning car in downtown Bethesda Thursday night.
Officer R.A. Felix-Fortuna was traveling along Montgomery Avenue and East-West Highway around 6:50 p.m. when he saw a car that had crashed into a tree.
Bill Gross, a service lane manager at EuroMotorcars Bethesda, was already on the scene. He had been driving behind the woman on Montgomery Avenue right before she crashed and pulled over to assist.
Editor’s Note: The following video footage could be disturbing to some viewers.
The officer pulled over and was told by Gross that a person was trapped in the car. Montgomery County Police said the front end of the car was in flames and the cabin of the car filled with smoke.
Gross said he already put out one small engine fire with an extinguisher provided by a bystander, so Felix-Fortuna told Gross pointed him to a second fire extinguisher on the sidewalk.
“[Gross] had used up the contents of his extinguisher trying to put out the fire,” police said.
A 13-year-old was also in the car, but he was able to get out immediately after the collision, though Gross said the passenger was groggy, bending over and moaning.
Felix-Fortuna was able to cut the woman’s seat belt and, with the assistance of Gross, managed to get the driver out of the vehicle. The two men carried the woman to the paramedics.
Then a third fire ignited underneath the car, which Gross raced to put out.
“You don’t have to have any particular skills, just do something to help. Take action that may make a difference in someone else’s life,” Gross said in an exclusive interview with WTOP.
Initial accounts of the crash indicate the driver may have lost control of the car, Montgomery County Police said in a statement Thursday night. Police said both the woman and teenager were taken to a hospital and the woman is in stable condition.
Felix-Fortuna has been an officer with Montgomery County Police since Feb. of 2018. Before joining the department, he worked with Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad as a firefighter and EMT.