A Des Peres father played the role of action hero Tuesday when he helped victims of a . Joe Caruso doesn't claim to have super powers, however, calling himself "just another dad."
The people he saved may have a different opinion.
Caruso, 47, was driving home to Royal Acres subdivision in Des Peres at 9:51 p.m. Tuesday with his 15-year-old daughter after dropping off one of her friends who lives a short distance from the intersection.
Caruso was pulling away from of the intersection when out of the corner of his eye he saw a black SUV speeding toward a silver SUV stopped at the intersection. He floored the gas pedal and narrowly escaped the collision of the two vehicles.
"By the grace of God we were were able to get out of the way," Caruso said.
When the black SUV hit the silver one, the silver SUV burst into flames immediately, according to Caruso. The car then spun around in the intersection.
"It was like something you would see in an action movie," Caruso said.
No other drivers were around when the fiery collision occurred. After pulling to safety, Caruso had to make snap decisions that would greatly affect the outcome of what, in seconds, had become a disastrous and life-threatening situation.
Caruso told his daughter to call 9-1-1, and that he was going to go to the scene of the wreck to see if he could assist the victims.
"My daughter kept saying, 'Don't go, Dad, don't go,'" Caruso recounted. "After 10 seconds of going back and forth, I was looking at the fire and knew I had to at least try to help."
Caruso jogged about 25 feet to the silver car engulfed in flames.
"Smoke filled two-thirds of the car. It was a huge fireball. The heat was so intense, I don't remember how I got to the side of the car. Right when I was going to try to open the handle, the door opened and a woman just fell out out of the car. She was hysterically screaming and kind of fell into my arms," Caruso recounted.
Caruso grabbed the woman and back pedaled as he dragged her 20 or so feet away from the flames. She asked him if she was on fire and he told her no and that she was okay. Caruso said he still can't believe she was able to will herself outside of the vehicle with the amount of smoke inside.
About that time, the woman's silver car blew up more and pieces of the vehicle were flying around the pair. He walked the woman farther back and the two made their way over to a grassy area, where her daughter talked to the woman.
The Second Victim
After about a minute, Caruso made his way to the black SUV which was close to the flames from the silver car and about to catch on fire. A female passenger had made it out of the vehicle, but a male driver was still inside, passed out and bleeding, according to Caruso.
That's when police responded to the scene. .
The female passenger had squeezed into the passenger side of the vehicle and was trying to pull the driver out.
"I jumped in the passenger side, grabbed him and pulled as hard as could," said Caruso who managed to drag the driver over the console and out the passenger side door with the help of Gonzalez and the female passenger.
The three lay the driver on the ground and a nurse rushed over to treat him. By that time, emergency personnel were on the scene.
With the driver to safety, Caruso went to find his daughter.
"We were just extremely lucky and blessed not to be in the accident," Caruso said. "We thought we were going to get hit."
Luckily, the two didn't. And lucky for the victims in the car wreck, Caruso's snap decision to jump into a roaring fire helped prevent what very likely could have been a deadly situation.
"It was just wild. It felt like it didn't happen. There was so much fire. I didn't really know if was a smart move going up there, but it seemed like the car was going to blow up. I had to at least try. I just went into whatever mode and just happened to go," he said.
Caruso has had no emergency training. The father of three and entrepreneur calls himself "just another dad, just another husband."
Tuesday night, however, he was a lot more to the victims in a perilous situation.
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