AUBURN — The Jeep Grand Cherokee had flipped over on Broad Street moments before Pawel Kruszewski came up behind it on his way home from work. Three men dangled upside down inside, still buckled in.
Less than a minute after Kruszewski ran over, it was on fire. He yanked the door open and helped pull the men out.
On Monday, he was one of 19 people across the country honored as a Carnegie Hero medal-winner for saving their lives while risking his.
Kruszewski, 30, said he appreciated the honor.
He said it was good luck that the rear passenger side door was able to open after the September 2013 crash.
“I went in and started pulling on the back-seat passenger,” he said. “Then, I went back in and started talking to the front-seat passenger, told him the car was on fire. (I) grabbed his arm and helped him between the seats to get to the back seat, then helped him out.”
Everyone that day escaped without serious injuries, including Kruszewski, who had cuts to his arm from the broken glass.
“It all worked out great,” he said. “The majority of people will act in those situations, it just depends on who happens to be at the right place at the right time.”
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards its Carnegie Medals four times a year for selfless acts in trying to save others.
Kruszewski, who works as assistant plant manager for Old Castle in Poland, planned to apply the small grant that comes with the award to his college loans.
He said he was thankful to Sgt. Barry Schmieks, who was on scene that day and had nominated him.
“I’m thankful for the people that stopped and helped and thankful for the police and fire departments and all they do on a daily basis,” he said.