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RESCUE: Man Pulled from Burning Land Rover

A Mission Viejo sheriff's deputy and a bystander pulled the driver from the window of a burning vehicle late Thursday morning.

A driver is alive today thanks to a deputy and a bystander who pulled him from his burning Land Rover an instant before it became engulfed in flames.

The driver was rescued from his burning Land Rover near the Los Alisos/Marguerite intersection around 11:30 Thursday morning. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Sheriff's Deputy J. Popp and a bystander pulled the man to safety "about a minute" before the vehicle was engulfed in flames, Popp said.

Popp arrived at the scene to find bystanders screaming that a man was trapped inside the burning vehicle.

"I was expecting a drunk driver—I didn’t remember them saying anything about a vehicle on fire," he said of the dispatch call. "I arrived and saw a Land Rover pinned between a tree and another tree, then I noticed a car was on fire." 

No drugs or alcohol are expected as causes for the wreck, Popp said. The driver had been traveling to work eastbound on Los Alisos when he became dizzy.

"He just remembers being tired, then feeling dizzy, then us pulling him out of the car," Popp said.

The driver, whose name has not been released, veered across both lanes of traffic and crashed on the opposite embankment between trees. When Popp arrived, he saw that both doors had been smashed shut after knocking into the trees, trapping the driver in the burning vehicle.

He found the driver sprawled out on the passengers seat trying to dislodge his foot from beneath the drivers seat.

Once his foot was free, Popp and an unnamed bystander pulled the driver out of the vehicle and safely away from the burning wreckage.

Popp has served on the sheriff's department for 11 years. For the last two and a half years he has been stationed in Mission Viejo, where he patrols the northern portion of the city. Out of safety concerns, he asked that his first name not be used in this report.

Tom Sheltraw December 21, 2012 at 02:29 AM
This act by Deputy Popp brings the term 'Protect and Serve' to a whole new level. It's nice to see that we have men like this watching our city!
George Anstadt December 21, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Great happy ending, I am sure the officer and bystander felt good for making a positive impact,kudos for a job well done!
C king December 21, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Outstanding job it's great to here that there are people out there that a willing to put there lives on the line to help the innocent
Barbara December 21, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I've had the opportunity to interact with quite a few MV police officers over the years and Deputy Popp is the one that has always stood out to me. He actually cared about someone in my life that had a drug problem vs. just wanting to arrest that person and consider them a loser. I will never forget how much that meant to me. Good job to him and the brave bystander who was willing to risk his own safety!
Kathy DeLucio December 21, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Bravo! It's inspiring to hear about our local heroes. Thank you!
Trish Kelley December 21, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Thank you, Deputy Popp, for your brave, selfless action. It is wonderful to know that you and our other Mission Viejo Deputies are out there ready to protect and to save lives! Words cannot express the gratitude that we all have for you!
W.T.H. March 19, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Hello there. I want to express my deepest gratitude to both Deputy Popp and the bystander that helped me out of my burning car. I am a Chef by trade and I happened to be wearing my clogs. If I didn't have shoes on that I was able to slip my foot out of the crumpled metal, I don't think they would've been able to help me. I would love to thank the both of them in person for helping to save my life. My wife, my daughter and myself are EXTREMELY grateful for their selfless acts. Thank you again so very much.

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