While people were standing by at a Chevron gas station in Beaverton, Oregon, taking video of a woman trapped inside of her burning car, a 19-year-old came to her rescue.
“I wasn’t really thinking, I just saw her and knew I had to get her out of there before it gets worse,” Phillipe Bittar told KPTV after saving the woman’s life Saturday.
Bittar was on his way to get some food with his 16-year-old brother, Raphael, when they saw the plume of smoke and fire and slowed down to take a picture before noticing the woman inside.
Bittar noticed a crowd of people he said standing around, taking video of what he found to be a woman trapped in her almost fully engulfed burning car.
“There was like six bystanders just videotaping like oh man she needs to get some help.”
Onlookers like Joshua McCool said “there wasn’t a whole lot of people trying to get involved.”
One woman ran up to the car and desperately tried to open the passenger side door as the fire spread to a gas pump and worked its way through the car’s trunk. The passenger, who firefighters say is in her 70s, was shaking in the seat.
“Seeing her like that hit me in a certain way that just made me react,” Bittar said.
Though a Chevron attendant prevented the incident from escalating by immediately shutting off the main gas supply, Bittar didn’t see anyone else trying to help and ran to the car. By this time the flames had reached the back seats, and the woman in the car was still frantically trying to free herself.
Bittar looked for another way in and decided to risk his own life and break a window to pull the woman out. “I told her hey I’m going to pull you out, get away from the window because I have to break it and she’s like okay,” he described.
With only one punch with his bare fist, the window broke, he reached in and grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her through the window. “She was light in my arms,” he said.
Once out of the car, Bittar held her up and walked her over to two other women, who embraced her. Then they hugged and thanked him.
By the time Bittar turned back to look at the car, it was engulfed in flames.
The woman was taken by medic crews to a nearby hospital, and Bittar is being called a hero.
“I just did what any person’s supposed to do,” he said.
Fire crews later said in a statement that Bittar’s actions were nothing short of “heroic”. They said if he didn’t pull the woman out in time, she probably would not have survived.
“I didn’t really have much time to think and process everything as it was happening,” Bittar told Oregon Live. “But seeing the fire and the car and knowing she was out, it really hit me that I saved her life, and it felt really good.”
Bittar, a pre-med student at Oregon State University who is on summer break, said he’s often seen videos on YouTube of people captured in life-or-death situations and always wondered how he would react if he happened upon one.
Authorities are investigating what caused the woman to crash into the gas pump.
Bittar walked away with cuts from breaking the window while the woman suffered non-life threatening injuries from smoke inhalation.