Local pastor honored for saving man from burning car

COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A local pastor who rescued a man from a burning car was honored with an award from the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

"Highway patrol came to the church on Sunday and presented me with an award. They call it the hero award," says pastor Johnny Byrd. "I always give God the credit. He's the one that put me there."

On Sept. 17, Byrd learned about an accident on Augusta Highway after his daughter drove home and told him about the accident.

The two quickly returned to the scene to find the vehicle on fire. Byrd found a man still inside the car unconscious. The car had broken a tree in half, knocked down a metal car port and overturned. The car was lying on the driver's side mixed in with the debris of the car port and the downed tree.

"I looked down and his feet were on fire," Byrd said. "The screams that this man put out, I'll never forget."

As the fire continued to spread, Byrd flagged down another man named Mark Dawson, for help. Byrd located a miniature baseball bat near the wrecked car after it had been thrown from the wreckage. After more than 10 tries, the pastor was able to bash through the car's sunroof. The interior of the car was filled with smoke and flames.

The two men reached into the burning car and pulled the victim out through the sunroof, but the victim got stuck.

"We began to pull and then the car exploded. And when it did, it blew us all back. I wouldn't let go and it blew him out," Byrd said.

Byrd said the victim's clothes were on fire. The witnesses extinguished the victim's burning clothes while fire and rescue units arrived on scene.

Firefighters found the car fully involved when they arrived. Paramedics treated the victim, Byrd and Dawson.

Byrd suffered burns to his arms and hands during the rescue. The victim was burned on over 50 percent of his body and received multiple traumatic injuries.

Emergency officials say the actions of the three saved Thompkins' life.

"At first, I really didn't think I deserved the award. But a lot of people said go ahead and accept it," Byrd said."I would've done it for anybody."

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