‘We had to get him out’: Good Samaritans tell their stories after saving man from burning car

Two men who helped pull a driver from a burning vehicle on a Toronto-area highway this week are telling their stories after a harrowing rescue that was captured on video.

The driver, a 36-year-old man from Toronto, experienced a “medical episode” while on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in Mississauga, west of the city, on Monday morning, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said.

The video shows a white sedan travelling down the highway with white smoke pouring from it. The vehicle then crashed, and thick black smoke began billowing from its right side. 

Ben Sykes and Fabricio Lauar had never met before, but the daring rescue they mounted along with three other men has given them a shared experience they’ll never forget. They talked about how it all unfolded, and how they feel about being hailed as heroes, on CBC News Thursday.

“I realized something was wrong, I saw the car was on fire,” Sykes said. 

Sykes was heading out to Mississauga, on the way to work, while Lauar, also driving to work, was heading to Oakville. While on the QEW, they both saw a vehicle crash into the median, past the railing and construction signs.

People were moving quickly around the vehicle, Sykes recalled. He got out of the car and tried to help.

“You know there’s danger; you’re constantly evaluating that on top of trying to get this guy out,” he said.

‘Heroic’ rescuers sprang into action

Sykes tried and failed to break the driver-side window, first with his foot then his elbow, bruising it as he tried to smash the glass.

“We had to get him out at that moment, a couple seconds [the vehicle] would’ve exploded,” Lauar said.

Lauar got dashcam video of the incident. When he approached the car, he saw the driver was unconscious. He rushed back to his car to call 911 just as another bystander yelled, “Fire!”

Sykes and Lauar tried to break the window again and again.

“We were hoping the window would break, it was the only chance we had,” Lauar said.

It was only when a man driving by in a dump truck tossed the pair a hammer that they were to break the window.

“I saw him throw it, it landed in the grass, and I ran over and grabbed it,” Sykes said. “I thought if we can get the door open, we’re in the home stretch.”

The pair broke the window and pulled the driver out, dragging him across the grass and into the back of a bystander’s car. Just a few seconds later, the vehicle was engulfed in flames.

Ben Sykes, one of the men involved in the rescue, says: ‘You know there’s danger; you’re constantly evaluating that on top of trying to get this guy out.’ (CBC)

“It was not recognizable,” Sykes said. “Flames were shooting out.”

They told CBC News it all happened too fast for them to worry about their own safety.

“I didn’t really think about it; you sort of just jump out and help,” Sykes said. “In the back of my mind, I was thinking at some point I may have to peel out, but you’re just focused on the next thing.”

“There was no hesitation, it was fight or flight,” Lauar said. “If that was you, you’d want someone to save you.”

After the incident, Sykes and Lauar managed to speak with the driver.

“He called, said he was good, recovering, thankful for what we did,” Lauar said.

“I said, ‘Hey man, I’m glad we could help,'” Sykes said.

Fabricio Lauar, who helped rescue the driver from a burning vehicle, says: ‘There was no hesitation, it was fight or flight … If that was you you’d want someone to save you.’ (CBC)

The two men said they aren’t concerned with being called heroes. 

“It’s just a label, I just tried to help a guy,” Sykes said.

“We were grateful we got him out,” Lauar said.

The OPP received Lauar’s dashcam footage as part of their investigation. Lauar said the driver told him he suffered an epileptic attack. Lauar’s arm was bruised and bleeding after, while Sykes’s elbow and arm were bruised.

“It was all teamwork; we were lucky to get him out,” Lauar said.

“We’re going for a beer after this,” Sykes said.