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First responders honored as heroes for saving woman from burning car

Four men receive first-ever Eric Sutphin First Responder Hero Award

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – Montgomery County is honoring four first responders as heroes.

The Board of Supervisors recognized the men Monday night for rescuing a woman who was trapped under a burning car last month.

Early in the morning of Oct. 7, Deputy Josh Oakley pulled up to a terrifying scene in Riner. His dash cam video shows flames shooting out of an overturned car on the side of Route 8 with a woman trapped underneath.

"I just, out of instinct, ran up to the vehicle," Oakley said.

"It was pretty sobering hearing that poor little girl just scream. That was the hardest part," Riner volunteer firefighter Zach Duncan said.

Duncan and fellow volunteer firefighter Joey Griffith were already trying everything they could to rescue her.

"Me and the other firefighter ran up, tried to lift the vehicle off of her, and couldn’t get it to budge. We were scrambling for options. We had to act immediately to try to get her out. At that time, the officer showed up," Griffith said.

The three men tried once again to lift the car and free the woman. 10 News asked Oakley if he thought at that point they would be able to save her.

"No, but that's not really something that you think about. When you hear somebody screaming and you notice that they're trapped under the vehicle, obviously, you know you're going to do whatever you can to get that person out of the vehicle," Oakley said.

With an off-duty Carilion police officer's help, it worked.

"Without the deputy and then the firefighters there to help us out, we would probably never be able to get her out," Duncan said.

The dash cam video shows the first responders heroically pulling the woman to safety.

"It had a cloth top so it was a convertible. How that girl made it out of it, I still have no idea," Duncan said.

Days later, Sheriff Hank Partin heard the story.

"One of the deputies approached me and said, 'Hey sheriff, did you hear about Oakley picking the car up off the woman?' and I said, 'What are you talking about?'" Partin said.

He decided the first responders needed to be recognized.

"We have heroes that serve their community. And they perform heroic actions all the time. Lots of times, those actions are never even talked about," Partin said.

That's why he created the Eric Sutphin First Responder Hero Award that each of the men received Monday night.

"I don't view myself as a hero by any means," Oakley said.

"It's humbling, but there's so many other heroes that don't get recognized," Griffith said.

"We put our boots on same way as everybody else and try to do what we can to help our community. If the call came across, yeah, I’d do it all over again," Duncan said.