Southfield police officer pulls man from burning vehicle

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published March 22, 2023




SOUTHFIELD — Police were dispatched to the scene of an accident at West Eight Mile Road and Northland Drive at 11:30 p.m. March 11. A speeding red Ford Edge ran a red light, struck a silver Ford Edge and caught fire, trapping the vehicle’s occupants.

When Officer Patrick McCormick arrived at the scene, he sprang into action. As his partner went to check on the silver vehicle, he rushed over to the red vehicle, which was ablaze, with the fire extinguisher from the patrol car. Witnesses at the scene had helped remove the driver before the police arrived, but they were unsure if anyone else was in the car.

McCormick could see through the driver’s window an unconscious person who appeared to be breathing despite being engulfed in flames.

McCormick then ran over to the passenger’s side and attempted to put out the flames with the fire extinguisher, but to no avail. Instead of giving up, he quickly devised another plan: breaking out the car window.

Plan B proved to be successful, and he was able to break the window. However, as he used the fire extinguisher again, he noticed that it would only temporarily relieve the flames. Thinking on his feet, he reached inside the vehicle through the broken window, grabbed the door handle, pulled the door open, and began using a knife to cut the seatbelt. As he was doing so, a witness rushed across the street to a gas station to retrieve another fire extinguisher and then sprayed it through the driver’s window while McCormick cut the seatbelt and extracted the passenger from the vehicle.

McCormick explained that he didn’t give the situation much thought, attributing his actions to his natural instincts as an officer.

“My only thought process at that time was I needed to get him out of the car as soon as possible.”

On March 14, Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee recognized McCormick’s courageous actions with the Southfield Fire Chief’s Award.

Tragically, the following day, that passenger passed away at the hospital. McCormick stated that despite the sorrow of the passenger passing, he felt that it was important that he could at least give the family the opportunity to visit with him. The drivers of both vehicles were transported to the hospital for critical injuries.

“Officer McCormick’s heroic actions are a true testament to his character,” Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren stated. “Despite the flames, heat and smoke, he put his own safety at risk in an attempt to save a life. Officer McCormick’s bravery and passion for members of the community will not go unrecognized.” He will be presented with a Life Saving Award at the 2023 Southfield Police Department Awards Ceremony, Barren said.

“It felt great to be recognized, but at the end of the day, like any other officer in Southfield, it’s just one of those things that you just react and do that — you don’t think too much about (it),” said McCormick, “I want to give credit to the bystander that ran across the street, because that helped me be able to pull the passenger from the vehicle. Credit needs to go to the people that helped out, because it was a team effort.”

The good Samaritans who used fire extinguishers and even some of their own clothing to help put out the fire before police arrived will be honored in an award ceremony presented by the Police Department and the Fire Department.