PASADENA, Texas — A wrecker driver who risked his own life to save a deputy constable who was trapped in a burning car was honored on Tuesday.
It was an emotional reunion for the driver and deputy.
On July 26 at 2 a.m., tow truck driver Richard Borgstrom was working when he pulled over on the East Beltway to record a video of a car fire on his phone. That's when he realized that the car that was on fire was actually a Precinct 8 patrol unit with a deputy constable still inside.
“When I banged on the window, I seen her hand come around the airbag curtain,” Borgstrom said.
But the door was jammed shut, so he grabbed a trailer hitch and smashed out a window to pull 27-year-old Kiana LeMelle to safety.
At Tuesday's ceremony, a teary-eyed LeMelle hugged Borgstrom.
“I'm very grateful for Richard. Happy to be alive,” LeMelle said.
Ten staples, three stitches and three weeks later, it remains very difficult for her to talk about.
“It’s very emotional,” LeMelle said.
LeMelle, a toll road deputy, was stopped on the right shoulder of the East Beltway when a work truck rear-ended her vehicle. The impact sent the SUV sailing left across the Beltway and into the concrete HOV median.
Borgstrom remembers the moment he smashed the glass.
“All the smoke came out. She was suffocating inside. You could smell the chemical in the airbag. It hit me, knocked me back a couple of feet,” he said.
But even after the rescue, the danger was not over.
“The ammunition started going off from ammunition left in there. Myself and a few officers ducked behind my tow truck waiting for the bullets to stop flying," Borgstrom said.
Borgstrom has been in the business for 30 years and said wrecker drivers see their share of danger.
“I’m not the only one who's done this before. Plenty of tow truck drivers put their lives on the line,” he said.
Tow truck drivers are a tough breed with a tough reputation and often with a tough act to follow.
The accident happened in Pasadena. Pasadena police investigated the crash and said the driver of the work truck fell asleep at the wheel and no charges were filed.