Off-duty officer likely saved life of motorist on 405, official says

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An off-duty police officer was injured while pulling a man from a burning vehicle on Wednesday after an early afternoon wreck that closed three lanes of the northbound 405 Freeway for part of Christmas Day.

About 1:45 p.m. Los Angeles Police Department Officer Don Thompson was driving to work southbound on the 405 Freeway, just south of the 101 Freeway interchange, when he saw a car in the northbound lanes hit the center divider and come to a stop, said LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman.

Thompson, a 26-year veteran and member of the bomb squad, pulled over, then jumped the k-rail dividing northbound and southbound traffic. As he approached the crashed vehicle, smoke and flames began to engulf it, Neiman said.


Inside the burning car, a man in his mid- to late 60s was unresponsive in the driver’s seat. Thompson pulled open the driver’s door, cut away the seat belt with a utility knife and began to pull the man from the car, Neiman said. Thompson was soon overwhelmed by smoke and flames, and sustained minor burns to his arms.

Two citizens helped pull Thompson and the driver to safety as an ambulance and fire trucks arrived, Neiman said.

Thompson “probably saved this guy’s life,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Cameron Cress, who was among the first to arrive at the scene. The car “was fully involved when we got there.”


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Twitter: @jasonfelch