Motorist rescues man from burning SUV in Minnesota

NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. -- A Minnesota Air National Guardsman is being hailed as a hero for helping pull a man who was trapped out of a burning car just moments before it became fully engulfed in flames, CBS station WCCO reports.

The Minnesota State Patrol said the incident happened at about 6:40 p.m. on I-35W and County Road D. A motorist, identified as Robert Renning, was heading southbound when he noticed a vehicle on fire nearby. He was able to get driver Michael Johannes' attention and both vehicles pulled over.

"I could see the flames coming out from underneath the car on the way back," Renning said.

 

By the time Renning waved him down, Johannes had smelled something odd.

Both Johannes and Renning pulled over.

But once on the shoulder the SUV automatically locked, trapping Johannes inside.

"I put it in park and that's when I couldn't get out," Johannes said.

The SUV's doors had automatically locked. Johannes could not open them.

"The flames were starting to kick out around the bottom a little bit. Starting to smoke. The interior of the car was completely filled in smoke. You couldn't see who or what was inside," Renning said.

The State Patrol said Renning immediately ran to the car and was able to get a car door open by bending it in half and shattering the glass.

Renning tried the car doors but they wouldn't open. Then he saw Johannes trying to kick out the passenger side window. Renning said he knew he had to do something.

The State Patrol said Renning immediately ran to the car and was able to get a car door open by bending it in half and shattering the glass.

"I grabbed the top of the door frame and pulled until the glass shattered," Renning said.

He then pulled Johannes to safety.

"It had to have been adrenaline. I don't know how I did it. I truly don't," Renning said.

The charred frame of the car shows where Renning bent the frame with his bare hands.

Authorities said Renning was not hurt during the rescue. Johannes suffered minor smoke inhalation and a couple of minor cuts after being pulled through the shattered glass.

Renning says he is not a hero.

"I didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't have done at the time. It was all timing," he said.

But that's not the way the Johannes see it.

"I am eternally grateful for myself and my husband and my daughter that we can still be here as a family so thank you Bob," Johannes' wife, Lisa, said.

Michael Johannes and Robert Renning have talked by phone and Johannes says he repeatedly thanked him.

Renning says that is all that he wants, but Johannes says he also plans to take him out for a beer.

The State Patrol will be nominating Renning for a Good Samaritan award.

"He did an extraordinary deed, bending a locked car door in half of a burning car to extricate a trapped person," said State Trooper Zachary Hill, who responded to the scene. "I feel this man deserves any and all commendation for his extraordinary life-saving measure that kept another from burning alive."

Johannes had just purchased the 2006 Chevy Trailblazer the week before.

WCCO checked and that GM model had been the subject of two fire-related recalls.

GM did not return our phone call.

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