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July 24, 2007
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Fla. officer saves man from burning car

By Jim Leusner
The Orland Sentinel 

ORLANDO, Fla. A month ago, Orlando Police Officer Ed Michael's career was on the line in a brutality case in court.

This weekend, the six-year veteran found a minivan burning in the Rosemont area, helped fight the blaze and rescued a 70-year-old man who had passed out from diabetic shock.

"It was a joint effort," Michael, 31, said Tuesday. "I'd like to think I didn't do anything different than anyone would have. It's a shame no [motorists] offered to stop and help."

Michael, who works the midnight shift in northwest Orlando, was on patrol at 11:30 Friday night in the 4400 block of Watch Hill Road when he saw the minivan on fire in a home's driveway. He radioed for the fire department and police officers to respond.

In the meantime, he used his department-issued fire extinguisher to try to knock down the fire in the right front engine compartment. Patrolman Shane Overfield arrived a few minutes later and both emptied their fire extinguishers while thick smoke filled the vehicle and a tire exploded.

Michael smashed a rear window to look inside and hail any passengers, but thick smoke billowed out, blocking his view. Firefighters then arrived to battle the blaze.

Orlando Fire Lt. Charlie Hill started breaking other windows to "sweep" for occupants. He saw a white tennis shoe near the brake pedal. Fire was shooting under the dashboard and up the windshield, he said.

"I said, `Somebody left a tennis shoe in the car,' " Hill said. Seconds later, he shouted: "There's somebody in the tennis shoe. We've got a victim."

Willie Carter of Orlando, still wearing his seat belt, had slumped over into the passenger seat from diabetic shock, police said. Hill jumped on him to shield him from the flames while firefighters sprayed down the dash and front seats.

The bottom four inches of the floorboards were the only part of the car not filled with smoke, Hill said.

When Carter awoke, confused, he grabbed a door armrest and struggled with rescuers. Michael and firefighters helped break his hold and the two officers helped firefighters pull the 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound man from the vehicle.

"If Ed hadn't been in the area and stopped, he [Carter] would have been dead," said Overfield, who joined OPD 11 months ago after serving as a convoy gunner with the Navy in Iraq.

Overfield said Carter, whom he interviewed at the hospital early Saturday, had no recollection of pulling into a random driveway feeling ill from low blood-sugar levels. He was treated and released for smoke inhalation at Orlando Regional Medical Center. He could not be reached for comment.

OPD Sgt. Cindy Haley, who witnessed the rescue, said she was nominating Michael and Overfield for awards of merit and commendation from the department.

Deputy Police Chief Val Demings, the patrol division commander, said the rescue was worthy of the "highest award possible" from the department, which has a committee to review such matters.

Hill said he and his three-person crew also have been nominated for a "combat award" by superiors in the fire department for helping to save a life.

"The cops, both of them, went above and beyond," Hill said. "Their clothing isn't meant to be near fire. They were putting themselves in a dangerous situation."

On June 22, Michael was acquitted by an Orange Circuit Court jury on battery charges stemming from a 2005 arrest of a combative, mentally ill transient.

"I'm glad that's behind me," said Michael, who awaits results of an internal investigation into that case. 

Copyright 2007 The Orlando Sentinel

Full story: Fla. officer saves man from burning car






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