Good Samaritan and first responders pull man from burning car

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: December 03, 2019 05:16 PM
Created: December 03, 2019 04:49 PM

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WHEC) — The heroic actions of a passerby and a team of first responders who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, likely saved a Canandaigua man’s life over the weekend.

The victim’s car careened off the road, down a ravine and caught fire, and with seconds to spare he was pulled from the flames.


Dwight Symonds was driving down Western Boulevard in Canandaigua on Saturday when he stopped for a red light.

While he was sitting there, he saw the car in front of him that made it through the yellow light, go off the road.

“I see this car pull over to the side and it just kept going over and over and right over the embankment,” he told News10NBC.

When the light turned green, Symonds decided to check it out.

“I pulled over and I looked down and his interior light was on, I could see his face, could see the smoke coming out of the front of his car, I called 911 and by the time I went down over the embankment, it [the car] burst into flames,” he said.

That didn’t stop Symonds from rushing to help though.

“I went down and the door wouldn't open but the glass was broken out so I'm talking to him,” he said.

Canandaigua Police Officer Anthony Catalfamo and NYS Trooper Chris Braun were in the area when Symonds made that 911 call and rushed to help.

“[When we got down there] it was right underneath our feet, I'd say probably a majority of the front portion of the car was on fire, there was so much smoke that when I first looked into the car, I couldn't even see the driver,” Trooper Braun said.

Off-duty Canandaigua Firefighter Ben Cramer was on his way to pick up his daughter when he heard the call and saw the cars parked on the side of the road.

Video and audio from his helmet camera shows the team of four men working to get the driver out.

“It was an emotional scene, we only had seconds… the car had gasoline all around and it and the victim’s injuries were pretty severe so we needed to get him out and to safety,” Cramer told News10NBC.

Just in time, the group was able to free the man and carry him up the ravine.

The first responders say had it not been for Symonds, it’s likely the man would have died.

“We would have only seen a big fire by the time somebody called it in if he hadn't been there to stop and help, it would have been a whole different story,” Cramer said.

When it comes to his own safety, “The thought crossed my mind, it didn't panic me, I didn't get nervous until after it was all done,” Symonds said.

If he had to do it all over again, he said he wouldn’t give it a second thought.

“I think if you just see somebody who’s having a little trouble, lend a hand if can. If you can't… call somebody.”

The driver of the car was flown to Strong Memorial Hospital with injuries but is expected to be OK.

Canandaigua Police are still trying to determine what caused his car to go off the road in the first place, they suspect there was a problem with the gas lines.

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