‘Fire just kept coming’: Pasco deputies describe dramatic rescue of driver from burning car

Pasco County

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – While a group of Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputies say they’ve been in life-saving situations before, nothing quite compared to the dramatic rescue of a woman from her burning car in late December.

Deputy Joshua Yanzer’s body camera was recording as he ran toward an Infinity that caught on fire after a wrong way crash on the Suncoast Parkway.

“Surprisingly the door wasn’t hot,” Deputy Yanzer said, “which was amazing to me. I’m surprised my hands are not burnt.”

Yanzer and two of the other Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to the fiery crash said the flames were not the only obstacle to removing the driver from the car.

“I think the most intense part was the smoke,” Deputy Justin Keene said. “Every time we would go into the car to pull her out it, it was more the smoke, not the flames, that pulled us back and it also limited our visibility.”

When on patrol, the deputies keep fire extinguishers with them in their vehicles at all times.

“We’ve been told to aim low toward the source,” Deputy Keene explained, “so that’s where we put the fire extinguisher. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. The fire just kept coming.”

Despite trouble controlling the flames, they were not deterred from trying to save the trapped driver.

“Went hulk smash on the door,” said Deputy Yanzer. “Kind of worked.”

Together, Deputies Yanzer and Keene, Sgt. Tyler Kroker and Cpl. James Dominguez managed to pull 30-yea-old Ricca Soto through the front door window to safety.

“Wo we dragged her approximately 15-20 feet away and as soon as I turned around the vehicle was fully engulfed,” Deputy Yanzer said.

While the deputies say they had their doubts during these critical moments, they also shared a collective sense of relief in saving the woman’s life.

“Our main focus was just to certainly get her out and to safety,” Sgt. Kroker said. “Thankfully it was a combined effort.”

According the Florida Highway Patrol accident report, Soto was driving south on the northbound side of the highway when she slammed head-on into another car. The driver of the other car was also injured.

Soto’s stepdaughter says her stepmother is still recovering at a local hospital and is thankful for Pasco’s finest.

“I’m really glad that the deputies were there,” Elizabeth Soto said. “It’s really challenging to watch that video and know it’s somebody close to me.”

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