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Spokane police officer, driver recount fiery car rescue caught on tape

SPOKANE, Wash. – A Spokane woman said Sunday that when her car caught fire Friday evening, she found herself trapped inside unable to open any doors, and begging: “God please don’t let me die this way.”

CBS Spokane affiliate KREM reports that Spokane Police Officer Tim Schwering – only a few months removed from training for it – got there just in time, and caught Kim Novak’s dramatic, fiery rescue on video.

Novak said she was driving home from the grocery store when her car hit a bump and shut down completely. Because of the power locks, she couldn’t get out, so she called home, and while leaving a voicemail, she noticed smoke.

After hanging up and calling 911, she started hearing crackling sounds.

“I’m realizing where there’s smoke, there’s fire and oh crap my car’s now on fire,” Novak told KREM.

The dispatcher told her to try to break a window, but despite all her efforts, “I didn’t even make a crack,” Novak said. “I’m screaming and I’m yelling ‘Help me’ and praying and asking God please don’t let me die this way.”

As the flames and smoke grew, Novak said she panicked.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be long until it was inside with me. I honestly thought I was going to meet my maker. I thought that was the end for me. It’s terrifying,” Novak said. 

However, Officer Schwering showed up just in time, answering the fire call because he was in the area.

“When I got there, there was the car in the middle of the road that was engulfed in flames, the front end was engulfed in flames. There was a woman in the backseat,” Schwering said.

Schwering said he used his baton to break the window when it was clear Novak couldn’t get herself out.

“He was swinging on that thing like Ken Griffey Jr. in the home run derby and beating it with all his might,” Novak said. “God bless him he didn’t give up and kept trying to save me.”

Despite his swinging, he said he struggled to make a big enough hole for Novak.

“It was starting to get a little warmer and the smoke was really coming into the cabin so I just basically ripped the glass off with my hands and instructed her to start moving,” said Schwering.

He finally made a hole big enough in the window to get Novak out of the car.

“It was like a baby going through the birth canal. I was coming out,” Novak said. 

A neighbor and Schwering then pulled Novak from the burning car to get her to safety. Besides some cuts and a little bit of a cough, Novak was just fine.

“He’s a hero. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to stand here. The flames were so intense and close to him. He’s a police officer and could have just as easily stood back and waited for the fire department to get here and put the flames out but then it could have been to late,” she said. “He didn’t ever give up. So he’s my hero.”

Schwering said he just kept thinking, “Stay focused and keep doing what you’re doing, just speed it up a bit.”

The young police officer, despite it being his first dramatic rescue, remained humble about his deed.

“I can tell you there’s 10 guys who work on my team and if any one of those guys could have gotten there before I did and any one of those guys would have done the exact same thing,” Schwering said.