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Video shows good Samaritans rescuing driver from burning car in St. Paul

MnDOT worker recalls moments driver was rescued from fiery crash
MnDOT worker recalls moments driver was rescued from fiery crash 02:07

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Video shows a heroic group effort to save the life of a driver stuck in a burning vehicle in St. Paul last week.

Last Thursday, Kadir Tolla was on his way into St. Paul when he came upon a fiery crash scene with his dashcam rolling.

"The scariest moment of my life. I saw a car on fire, and I was like 'Oh, there's probably someone in there,'" he said. "The worst thing that could have happened was I could probably get burned a little or get injured, but that man could literally lose his life."

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the driver in a Honda was traveling eastbound on Interstate 94 when they drifted to the right of the road, struck a light pole and then a guardrail.

Tolla's video shows him and several other good Samaritans attempting to pry the vehicle's doors open with little success as the flames continued to grow.

Kadir Tolla

"That could have been me one day, you know," Tolla said. "What would happen if I was in that situation and my life was in the hands of strangers that I don't even know. This is something I'll never forget."

The driver was eventually rescued when a Minnesota Department of Transportation worker managed to break the driver's side window.

"Get him out. It was the only thing going through my head," Dave Klepaida said. 

Klepaida happened to be patrolling the area when he came across the crash and realized the dire situation.

"To me, it's just doing my job. Everyone stepped up and just did it. It wasn't training, it was just being in the right place at the right time," he said.

He credits the successful rescue to a tool known as a window punch. It instantly breaks glass and is something Klepaida recommends all drivers have on them. 

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No injuries were reported, but the driver was taken to Regions Hospital.  

Driver releases statement to WCCO, calls rescuers "incredibly heroic"

Sam Orbovich, the driver who was rescued in the incident, released a statement to WCCO on Monday morning. He said he's alive because of the actions of the good Samaritans and first responders. 

Read the statement in full below:

"I am alive today because several Good Samaritans and professional first responders saved my life. Fred Rogers used to say that whenever someone sees something scary, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'

"On Thursday evening several drivers along I-94 in St. Paul pulled over, ran from their cars, and tried to free me as my car was bursting into flames along the berm of the freeway. My airbag deployed after my car hit a lamp post and guardrail. I came to just before a Highway Helper broke open my window and everyone pulled me to safety. I survived with only minor superficial injuries.

"As an attorney who has represented caregivers in Minnesota for over 40 years, it comes as no surprise when well-trained professionals snap into action to save someone's life or keep them out of harm's way. But it is incredibly heroic when people driving down the highway choose to put themselves at risk by running toward the flames to extract a stranger from a burning car that could explode at any moment.

"My family and I are incredibly grateful for these heroes. I sincerely thank everyone, including Kadir, Tessa, those who hammered at my car door amid the flames, and Minnesota's FIRST Highway Helpers.

"I look forward to thanking them all in person."

Video shows good Samaritans rescuing driver from burning car in St. Paul 01:55
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