Los Angeles: An off-duty West Traffic Division sergeant, working alongside courageous passersby, helped save the life of an injured motorist who was trapped in a fiery early morning freeway accident.
On Friday, May 5, 2006, around 4:20 a.m., Sergeant Christopher Kunz was riding his police motorcycle to work. As he headed south on the Golden State Freeway approaching Roxford Avenue, in the Knollwood area of the north San Fernando Valley, he encountered a major traffic accident. Just moments before, a tractor trailer and pickup truck had collided in a violent crash. Nearing the scene, the officer saw flames and heard a witness screaming, "he’s trapped inside!"
Sergeant Kunz immediately saw that the driver of the pickup, later identified as Andreas Orihuela, 39, was unable to pull himself from the truck’s badly wrecked passenger compartment. The vehicle was on fire. The screaming was coming from a concerned citizen, one of several standing next to the pickup’s open door, who had stopped to render aid. The spreading flames prevented the Good Samaritans from removing Mr. Orihuela from the wreckage.
Taking the initiative, Sergeant Kunz ran to several big rigs, which had stopped near by, and commandeered five fire extinguishers. He rushed back to the pickup, spraying the flames with fire retardant, in time for the passersby to pull Mr. Orihuela, alive, from the pickup. The victim was carried a safe distance from his vehicle just moments before it exploded.
Mr. Orihuela sustained burns to 80% of the left side of his body. He was immediately taken by paramedics to a local hospital, where he remains in serious but stable condition. His injuries are no longer life threatening.
Acting in unplanned concert, the passersby, whose identities are not known, and Sergeant Kunz, heroically prevented a harrowing injury accident from becoming a tragic fatal one.
Sergeant Kunz is an LAPD veteran with 17 years on the job. He is available for interviews this morning, between 10:00 and 11:00, at West Traffic Division, 4849 West Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles, telephone number 213-473-0222.
The officer’s photograph, and a photo of the victim’s flame-engulfed truck, are available by request from Media Relations Section.