DALLAS, Texas — The usual drive home from work for Henry Vargas turned out to be any but. on Sept. 28. Vargas is an officer for the Dallas County District Hospital Police Department.
When the off-duty officer headed home last Tuesday on Interstate 30, Vargas came across the unexpected. It put him in a situation where he acted on natural instincts as a law enforcement officer.
"I was driving on 30 and suddenly in front of me I see an explosion, a ball of fire," said Vargas.
That ball of fire turned out to be a car crash. There is video that also shows a trail of fire on the interstate video recorded by Vargas' dash cam in his personal car. Vargas pulled over immediately and in the same video from his dash cam you can see him running towards the danger as fast as he could towards the burning vehicle.
The truck was stuck in the eastbound lanes of East R.L. Thornton Freeway near Jim Miller Road. Police at the scene told WFAA photojournalist Mike Forbes that the driver was calling for help and her truck was hit by other vehicles.
"I ran towards the truck, and I noticed that there was a woman still inside," said Vargas.
In the midst of the flames, Vargas could see the look on the trapped woman's face and tried desperately to get the doors open.
"I tried to open the driver-side door, but it was jammed shut," said Vargas, "I ran to the passenger side which was also jammed shut."
Vargas noticed the woman inside the truck was likely too injured to escape on her own. He could see inside the cab of her pick-up which took on some of the impact from being hit from behind by another vehicle. Vargas was able to look the woman in the face.
"There was just something about her look. She was in so much fear," said Vargas.
It's a fear that ended up motivating Vargas to act quickly. While trying to get into the woman's truck, he remembered he had an emergency rescue tool in his personal vehicle. During an interview about the incident, Vargas demonstrated how he used his "Glass Break Tool" on the truck as flames increased by the second, along with the smoke.
"The smoke was getting thicker," said Vargas. "And I got a good whiff of it, and I just knew I need to get her out now before we were all engulfed in flames."
Vargas entered the burning pick-up truck and rescued the woman.
She told him she was in pain, but she could not readily describe all of her injuries.
Vargas believes she may have been in shock. He also shared that after pulling her to rescue with the help of others, flames fully engulf the truck about one minute after the daring rescue.
It's not clear what led up to the truck being stalled or it catching fire, but the sheriff's office was still investigating.