NORTH HAVEN – While driving home from work on the Merritt Parkway early Sunday morning, Caleb Rhodes of Wallingford stepped into a new job title: hero.
Around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, a car slammed into a tree on the Merritt Parkway in the northbound direction, near exit 63 in North Haven. Rhodes, 29, was driving by, saw the aftermath, and became a crucial part of the rescue.
“I see a glow off into the woods and then I see a lady in the middle of a two-lane road, flagging down, one hand on her phone and pointing, screaming, ‘Help!’" said Rhodes.
Rhodes said two people were trapped inside as flames started to surround the car. Emergency crews hadn’t arrived yet, so Rhodes and other good Samaritans who stopped quickly realized those lives were in their hands.
He said, “I wasn't really thinking. The only thing I was thinking was if we leave, if we stop trying, he will die. There will be two dead bodies in the car.”
Rhodes worked with others to get the passenger out first. At the time, they thought the passenger was the only person trapped.
“The guy had the scissor jack trying to break the window. I end up grabbing it from him and just throwing it through,” explained Rhodes.
He said, “[The passenger] is in a daze. He’s looking around and bloody everywhere. So we’re thinking, 'OK, we got this. We’re done now.’ We walk him around and they’re still freaking out saying that there’s still someone else in there.”
In the meantime, the flames were growing and time was running out.
Rhodes said he reached his hand in and felt the driver who was still in the car. He told FOX 61 he ripped out the airbag, bent the door frame, and started to pull the man from the car. He called for help from another good Samaritan to get him out.
“He grabs one arm and I grab the other and we just pull him out like right over the top of the door frame. As soon as we lay him down and look back, the car just immediately exploded,” said Rhodes, who said it seemed like something from a movie.
Rhodes said, “I just wasn't going to leave him, you know?”
Police say both men were treated for minor injuries.