Two Cook County Sheriff’s officers are being hailed as heroes after they rescued a teen driver from a burning vehicle following a crash on Interstate 80 early Wednesday morning.
Illinois State Police said the crash in the south Chicago suburbs happened around 2 a.m. on I-80 near Interstate 57 when a vehicle crashed into a guard rail and caught fire.
"I was just driving, I was going about 70 and I saw a coyote and swerved and hit the railing," said 18-year-old Joe Richmond, who was driving the crashed vehicle.
Two Cook County Sheriff’s officers, William Hoefler and Viktor Yatsyk, were finishing their shift when they saw the car had been in an accident and rushed to help, according to a spokeswoman for the department.
"I knew with the engine being on fire and the car in flames it was just a matter of time," said Officer Hoefler. "I asked him to get out of the car, he said he couldn't. I told him it was on fire, he said the doors were locked and he couldn't open them."
The officers smashed a back window in the vehicle, unlocked the door and pulled Richmond out through the back seat.
"The car was pretty much smoking by then and kind of on fire and about 10 seconds after they pulled me out the car burst into flames," Richmond said.
Richmond sustained non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest where he was released later Wednesday morning.
He had one very important message for the officers who helped him.
"I just want to say thank you very much," he said. "I’m glad all my airbags went off, I mean it’s just really an insane moment if you think about it."
"It feels good, I'm glad he's ok," Hoefler said. "It's good anytime you can help somebody out."