West Palm Beach, FL – A heroic citizen, who lifted a one-ton Ford Focus off of a trapped Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) trooper, was awarded for his role in saving the trooper’s life on Thursday.
Trooper Andy Ong, 51, was standing near the back of his patrol car running radar on an inside interstate median lane on Oct. 1, the WPTV reported.
As Trooper Ong clocked the speeds of cars that passed by at 10:27 a.m., the driver of a Honda Accord changed lanes, and collided with the left side of a Ford Focus.
The driver of the Focus lost control of the vehicle on impact, and spun into the median lane where Trooper Ong was standing.
The Focus then slammed into Trooper Ong, as well as the back end of his parked patrol vehicle.
Jose Antonio Rodriguez, 44, was traveling on the same interstate that morning with his wife and stepson when he saw the vehicle crash into Trooper Ong, the Palm Beach Post reported.
A crowd quickly gathered at the scene, but nobody was doing anything to help, Rodriguez said.
“Not knowing if the person was alive or not, I told everybody to get the hell out of the way, because they were just standing there in shock,” he told the Palm Beach Post.
“I ran and said, ‘I’m the only one who can lift the car up.’ I don’t know how I knew,” Rodriguez explained. “I jumped over the wall, I went to lift it up, and it felt like it weighed two pounds.”
Without assistance from anyone else in the crowd, Rodriguez lifted the Focus off of Trooper Ong.
“And when I saw his eyes were open, that’s when I just tried to be there, and let him breathe,” Rodriguez said. “I knew if he could breathe … that his body would carry him enough until people would come.”
While Trooper Ong was rushed to the hospital, Rodriguez returned to his car with bloodied hands.
He told the Palm Beach Post that he “felt drained,” but was more concerned about whether or not the trooper would survive.
Trooper Ong underwent multiple surgeries before he was released from the hospital on Nov. 10, but he did survive the accident.
Because many of his injuries were facial, he still has difficulty speaking, and continues to receive rehabilitative care, FHP Sergeant Mark Wysocky told the Palm Beach Post.
At the Palm Beach County Police Benevolence Association Hall on Thursday, the FHP honored Rodriguez with the Heroism Award for his contribution in saving the life of Trooper Ong.
Trooper Ong, a 12-year veteran of the FHP, thanked and embraced Rodriguez after the award was presented.
“It was all so surreal. … It still is,” Rodriguez told the Palm Beach Post. “I had his life in my hands.”
The drivers of the Ford Focus and Honda Accord both sustained minor injuries, and no charges had been filed in relation to the crash as of Thursday, Sgt. Wysocky said.