A MAN is being hailed a “true Aussie hero” after risking his life to save a driver trapped in a burning car following a horrifying single-vehicle crash in country NSW. Scroll down to see the dashcam video.
The accident happened on the Olympic Highway near Cootamundra, in the state’s Riverina region, shortly before two o’clock on Sunday morning.
Michael Van Baast was driving along the highway when he noticed a pair of hazard lights flashing in the distance.
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It wasn’t until Mr Van Baast got closer that he realised the flashing lights were coming from a ute that had left the road and smashed head-on into a tree.
Mr Van Baast pulled over and quickly noticed the driver, 22-year-old father-of-one Jacob Prosser, was still trapped inside the wreck as smoke started issuing from the crushed engine.
Wasting no time, Mr Van Baast called triple zero and ran towards the smoking ute to try and free Mr Prosser, who was trapped by his legs and slipping in and out of consciousness.
But, the doors were jammed. Then, the ute ignited.
As Mr Van Baast struggled to get the doors open, flames quickly spread and engulfed the engine bay.
What Mr Van Baast did next is astounding.
Instead of running away, fuelled by adrenaline and the sheer determination to get Mr Prosser out alive, Mr Van Baast used his bare hands to bend the door of the burning ute in half.
He managed to pry the door open just enough so that he could pull the father-of-one out of the flaming wreck.
Ninety seconds later, the ute exploded as Mr Van Baast dragged an unconscious Mr Prosser away from the inferno.
A passing driver was second to arrive on the scene, followed by emergency services who relieved Mr Van Baast.
Miraculously, thanks entirely to the efforts of Mr Van Baast, Mr Prosser escaped life-threatening injury.
He was taken to the Wagga Rural Referral Hospital before being airlifted to Sydney where he remained in a stable condition on Wednesday after undergoing surgery to a severely broken leg.
Mr Prosser’s parents have praised the actions of Mr Van Baast and said they will nominate him for a bravery award.
The entire ordeal was captured on Mr Van Baast’s dash camera and has since gone viral after being shared online.
Speaking exclusively to Prime News Wagga on Tuesday, Mr Van Baast said he wasn’t a fan of the hero tag.
“I saw a small flame under the bonnet and someone trapped inside,” Mr Van Baast told the network. “I tried opening the door but it was jammed shut.”
“Something exploded under the bonnet and I thought I’ve got to get this guy out now.
“At that point, I saw flames in the dashboard and I thought this is not going to end well so I decided to brute force him out.
“So I jumped up on top of the car and got a good grip on him and started yanking.
“I’ve had a lot of people call me a hero [but] I’m not a big fan of the hero tag.”
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday evening, Mr Van Baast said he was simply in the right place at the right time.
“I didn’t think at all, I just did what needed to be done,” he told the publication. “I’m not a hero, I just did what I had to and that’s pretty much it.”
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