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Good Samaritans help pull injured man from burning car after crash: "You gotta do it"

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A good Samaritan says he did what he had to do when he saw a car slam into a power pole in Spanaway on Sunday evening and catch fire.

An injured man was trapped inside the car near 46th Avenue East and 20th Street East. (Photo courtesy: Pierce County Professional Firefighters)

SPANAWAY, Wash. -- A Good Samaritan says he did what he had to do when he saw a car slam into a power pole in Spanaway on Sunday evening and catch fire.

An injured man was trapped inside the car near 46th Avenue East and 20th Street East.

"We stopped dead at about 15 yards. Me and him just stopped dead because we saw flame come up," said Phouthone "Chan" Chanhthanam, one of several Good Samaritans who stopped to help.

Chan told KOMO News he knew he had an important decision to make the moment he and another man approached the car.

"It’s weird. 'Cause you in it. And nobody’s gonna coach you or tell you what to do," he told KOMO News on Wednesday.

An injured man struggled to get out as the fire began to build, Chan said.

Trees and a damaged power pole stood tall nearby.

Chan knew what he had to do, he said.

"My final decision was… I gotta get in there. I gotta get him out," Chan said.

Witnesses told deputies that the 34-year-old driver was going about 80 miles per hour when he blew through the intersection, hit another car, then slammed into a nearby power pole.

Chan was on his way home from the hardware store when he heard the impacts.

He immediately stopped, checked on the first car that had been hit, then realized the man in a silver 1996 Honda Accord couldn’t get out, he said.

"I go underneath his armpit. And then the other gentleman grabbed his arm and we just help each other pull him out," Chan said.

Chan said he doesn't consider himself a hero.

He's a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran who now works as a maintenance technician for the Bethel School District and was just in the right spot when someone needed help.

"I thought I did well," Chan said. "There’s a lot of people out there that are doing the same thing I did. But I was just the person that happened to be there. It’s like… Either I do it or I don’t."

It’s something he hopes any of us would do.

After talking to 9-1-1 dispatchers and sheriff’s deputies about what happened, he continued his drive home, he said.

"Found my wife waiting for me. And she asked me ‘There’s an accident over there. Where you been? How come it take you so long to get home?’ And it kinda dawned on me. 'Well, I was in it. I was helping to pull the guy out from the fire. And you’re lucky to see me here.' You know?" Chan said with a chuckle. "And that was it for me. She gave me food and I went down to my man cave and stared at the game."

A neighbor told deputies that just before the crashes, the silver Honda Accord hit a school sign about 2 miles down the road.

The driver suffered critical injuries in the crashes, firefighters said. There's no update on his condition.

No one else was hurt, deputies said.