'Divine intervention': Off-duty Calif. officer runs to flaming crash after it happens right in front of him
Officer Mark Afanasev was in the right place at the right time to help two victims out of a burning vehicle
By Angelaydet Rocha
STOCKTON, Calif. — Stockton police Officer Mark Afanasev was off-duty traveling through Sunrise Blvd and Douglas Rd in Rancho Cordova with his wife Saturday night, July 17, when a vehicle collision caught their attention.
Two cars had collided, one becoming engulfed in flames.
"The only thing I was thinking about is that there's people in the car, there's people in the car and they need help," Stockton police Officer Mark Afanasev said. "They're, you know, burning."
Without thinking twice, the officer drove to the scene, told his wife to call the police and ran out of his car into the flames. Caught on his vehicle's camera, the officer is seen running into the flames and helping two victims out of the burning vehicle. One victim, a male, is seen getting out on his own while the officer helps the second victim, a woman, get out. Both victims with their legs on fire.
"Me and my wife were on our way to fill up the car at our local gas station, when we stopped at the light, heard a car crash off to the right. Saw the car that was flipping over, sliding on the roof," Afanasev said.
"And then we saw a second car sliding backward into a light pole. And then that second car that slid into the light pole went up in flames. And we just rushed over there to help the people that were in the car that was on fire."
The victims' identities and condition remain unknown. Shortly after the officer stopped to help, a group of civilians are seen on the video rushing to the scene to help the victims as well.
"All of us at the police department are extremely proud of Mark's heroic actions," Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said in a statement Thursday. "Even while off-duty, Mark put his own life in danger in order to help rescue the occupants inside that burning car. This is just another reminder that law enforcement officers are never off the job when duty calls."
"I've responded to numerous serious car crashes but not to where the car was engulfed in flames," Afanasev said.
He doesn't know what would have happened if they hadn't been there at that same time but he believes it was "divine intervention."
Record reporter Angelaydet Rocha covers breaking news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AngelaydetRocha. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at recordnet.com/subscribenow.
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