Dramatic video: Riverside man rescues driver from fiery street racing crash

A man pulled the driver from a burning vehicle Tuesday in Riverside, and the moment was captured on dramatic cell phone video.

"I saw an arm hanging out of the window, a sweater. I saw a life in there," Santiago Portillo said.

Portillo works as a manager at a nearby mattress store when he heard the crash, reported at about 9:45 a.m. near the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Tyler Street.

Portillo began recording the incident on his cell phone, but then saw the driver was still inside. He ran outside to the burning Honda with his phone still recording and grabbed the unconscious driver.  

"I was thinking about the car maybe exploding," Portillo said. "I wanted to get him out before it exploded and then we would have both been in a real mess."

He quickly grabbed the driver inside and dragged him to safety. 

A second person quickly jumped into action, and together, they picked up the driver to move him farther from the intense flames.

"Just the intoxicating smoke and the heat was just so overwhelming and I had to continue to drag him away from the car because it was just so hot," Portillo said.

Witnesses told police that the driver was street racing when he lost control of the car.

"According to the witnesses he was trying to avoid a semi-truck and swerved and ended up colliding into a street pole," Officer Ryan Railsback with the Riverside Police Department said.

Police said the driver is lucky he came to the rescue.  

"When our officers arrived on scene, the first officer said the car was completely on fire so it appears that this Good Samaritan pulled the driver out just in the nick of time," Railsback said. 

Portillo said he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but instead was thinking of his own family when he rushed to save the man’s life. 

"I was just thinking about his mom," Portillo said. "How I was going to explain to a mom we saw your kid get crushed?"

The driver was taken to the hospital and was expected to recover. 

Riverside police said he could face charges if the crash investigation shows he was street racing. 

Portillo said he’s heard from some of the man’s family who called to thank him for his actions.

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