WEST JORDAN — Police officer Walter Bockholt didn't hesitate when he saw a man trapped in a burning vehicle Wednesday night.
"All the doors were crunched, kind of jammed together. So we couldn't open any of the doors. So I climbed through one of the windows to see if I could move his seat back, maybe lay his seat back, and pull him out through a window," Bockholt said Thursday night as he recounted the incident.
Unfortunately, the car was too damaged for the West Jordan police officer to get a door open. But rather than leave the severely injured man alone in the car, which was filling with smoke and the engine compartment still burning, Bockholt cut the man's seat belt, moved him in a position so he could breathe a little easier, put a neck brace on him, and then stayed in the vehicle with him until fire crews could use the Jaws of Life to get a door open.
Although Lucas Nunez-Manriquez, 45, of Kearns, was still conscious when he was pulled out of the vehicle, Bockholt said he was unable to answer any of his questions and later passed away at a local hospital due to the extent of his injuries.
Still, Bockholt said it was inspiring to see what he described as a community effort to try to save the man. Other passersby had most of the car fire out before he arrived, using fire extinguishers and water bottles.
The accident happened about 9:20 p.m. Wednesday when Manriquez's vehicle went off the road and crashed into a pole at 3400 West and 9000 South and caught fire. Witnesses told investigators the vehicle was traveling at a high speed when it crashed. There were no skid marks or signs of braking prior to the crash, said West Jordan Police Sgt. Dan Roberts.
Bockholt was treated for minor smoke inhalation.
The three-year veteran of the West Jordan Police Department previously served for the U.S. Marines for eight years on a combat medical crew and later as an EMT on a wildland firefighting crew. He knew based on experience that he needed to get Manriquez out of the vehicle as fast as he could.
But the humble Bockholt doesn't believe it was any kind of special training that made him instinctively jump into the burning vehicle.
"I think it's a human instinct. I mean, it's the same instinct all the members of the community had when they were there. Someone was in trouble, someone needed help, and we were all pitching in and helped. It was a group effort to try and save the man's life.
"I don't see my actions as being more than anything they did, or the firefighters did or the emergency room staff performed. We all worked together to try and save a life," Bockholt said. "It really was a great community effort because a lot of those people, they did a lot of the heroic actions themselves."
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