Video: Titusville police rescue man as car explodes

Phillip Thistle, 44, of New Jersey, pulled to safety

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – Titusville police pulled a crash victim on fire to safety Thursday night as the man's vehicle exploded, authorities said.

The single-car crash was reported at 9 p.m. in the 6700 block of Riveredge Drive.

Police said a preliminary investigation shows that Phillip Thistle, 44, of New Jersey, was northbound on Washington Avenue and veered onto Riveredge Drive at a high rate of speed. He crashed a rental Toyota RAV 4 into a concrete barrier at the north end of Riveredge Drive, police said.

The RAV4 rolled over several times, and Thistle, the only occupant, pulled himself out of the wreckage and collapsed just feet away with his leg on fire, police said.

The road is a dead end.

Witnesses speaking to News 6 Friday said it's a miracle Thistle survived.

"It's unbelievable. There was a geyser of flames," said witness Don Conover, who lives on Riveredge Drive.

Officers pulled him to safety just before the vehicle exploded, police said.

"They don't give it a second thought. They rush into danger when everyone's rushing out," Titusville police spokeswoman Amy Matthews told News 6 Friday. "To get that victim to safety was their No. 1 priority."

Thistle was taken to a hospital, then airlifted to another facility with serious injuries, police said.

"We're just extremely proud of our officers, responding so quickly and saving this man's life," Matthews said.

Video of the incident, embedded above, shows first responders pulling Thistle from the flames seconds before the car explodes.

"Oh, my God, I'm burned everywhere," Thistle can be heard saying.

"You're good, you're good. You're OK," a rescuer can be heard while moving Thistle away from the burning car. An investigation is ongoing.

Police did not say Friday what caused the crash.

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About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.