Two Homeless Men Cut Seatbelt and Pull Unconscious Driver's Body from Burning Car


Thanks to the quick-thinking efforts of two homeless men in Santa Cruz, California, a driver is alive after his vehicle caught on fire on Nov. 13.

The men, Robert Woodlief and John Thompson, live at a homeless camp in Santa Cruz.

The men recalled hearing a dreadful noise that caused them to take off running in the direction of a horrific collision.

The driver of a big rig truck had lost control of his vehicle, plowing into a small sedan.

The sedan was caught in the truck’s bumper and slammed into several other vehicles before bursting into flames, KSBW-TV reported.

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When the two men reached the driver, he was unconscious and strapped into his seat.

The seatbelt wouldn’t come undone, leaving Woodlief and Thompson just minutes to improvise before the driver was engulfed in flames.

Using a pocket knife and a box cutter, the men worked to try and cut the seatbelt and pull the man out. They were met by powerful flames, reaching up toward Woodlief’s head.

“It caught my hair on fire, and that’s when I had to fall to the ground and roll two or three times,” Woodlief said. “And then John ran into the car and proceeded to cut.”

Thompson said he tried to focus on the rescue effort and forget about the flames. He succeeded in cutting through the seatbelt, and the two men tugged and pulled with all their effort to free the driver.

Nick Marini, who also lives at the homeless camp, used a fire extinguisher to try and buy the men a little more time by fighting the flames with the small hand-held tank.

He said the driver was freed just in the nick of time.

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“They cut the seat belt and freed his legs and they ripped that guy out of the car basically with 20 seconds to spare,” Marini said.

Meanwhile, two other homeless men, John and Manuel Murillo, were busy directing traffic and reassuring a group of school children who were on a field trip when the collision occurred.

According to KSBW, the driver remains hospitalized in critical condition.

None of the men see themselves as heroes — they said they simply did the right thing.

“I just hope anybody else would do that,” said Woodlief.

“I’m just an everyday person — that’s all,” said Thompson.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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