Off-duty cop gets man out of burning car

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The Roslyn Highland Fire Department responded to the car fire. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Ryder)

There were just two minutes between the time Officer Joseph Ryder saw a car driving by with sparks flying and then the gas tank exploding. Within that brief span, while on the Northern State Parkway in Roslyn, Ryder managed to get the driver’s attention, have him pull over and get him out of the car before the explosion.

The incident occurred the night of July 25 when Ryder, a police officer in the New York Police Department, was on his way home to West Babylon on the Northern State. He had just passed Exit 29 when he noticed the car with sparks. About 15 seconds later the sparks became a fire, he said.

“All the other drivers are just going around him, and the entire underside of his car’s on fire,” he said.

So he wailed on his horn, first from behind and then next to the burning car. When the driver pulled over, Ryder did, too, and together they stood about 40 feet back, he said.

The gas tank exploded about a minute later.

“I just felt like I was in the right place in the right time,” Ryder said. “I think anyone else would have done the same thing.”

In addition to being a police officer, Ryder volunteers with the East Farmingdale Volunteer Fire Company. He has witnessed many car fires, but the gas tank rarely explodes, he said.

“Tires can pop or something else because car fires progress pretty rapidly,” he said.

He has been a member of the New York Police Department for two years and is currently with Patrol Borough Brooklyn North.

The driver was thankful for Ryder’s help, the officer said.

“He said it might have taken him longer to realize and in that situation, after he pulled over, I think it was a total of about two minutes until the gas tank exploded,” Ryder said.

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