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Man Honored For Pulling Crash Victim From Burning Car On PCH

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MALIBU (CBS) — The Malibu City Council Monday showed its appreciation toward a Westlake Village man, who risked his own life to pull a crash victim from a burning car on Pacific Coast Highway.

The accident happened last month at PCH and Tuna Canyon Road in Malibu.

“I woke just a few seconds later stunned. I realized I had been in an accident,” said Scott Thornton of Oxnard.

Every time Thornton hugs his family, he embraces the blessings and the gift he received from a stranger.

“John gave me a second chance,” Thornton said referring to John Johannessen.

Thornton had been on his way home from work. Three cars behind him was Johannessen, who also had just got out of work and was heading to a Malibu Chamber of Commerce meeting.

“I saw a car cross the median and come in to my lane and there was really no time to react,” Thornton said.

“There was a cloud of smoke, dust, and pieces of cars flying the air,” Johannessen recalled.

Thornton had collided with another car head on, but was still conscious.

“The door handle, I couldn’t budge it. I tried to kick out the window, but I couldn’t,” Thornton said.

Johannessen pulled up next to Thornton.

“Crying and screaming, get me outta here,” Johannessen recalled.

“Find something. Find a rock and break the window,” Thornton shouted.

“I just pulled really hard, I broke the door, shattered the glass and I pulled him out,” Johannessen said.

“When John shattered the window and I heard his voice I thought, ‘This is it. I’m going to get out of here,’” Thornton said.

“The other car started on fire, so we didn’t know if his was going start on fire,” Johannessen said.

“He dragged all 180 pounds of me away from the car to safety,” Thornton said.

Johannessen then ran to get the other accident victim out of his car.

“There were two other gentlemen, who started to preform CPR on the young man,” Johannessen said.

Eriber Lopez, 25, later died at the hospital.

There were many angels on PCH that day, like the woman, who called Thornton’s family to let them know that he was OK.

“Whoever you are, thank you very much,” Thornton said.

Johannessen was honored by the Malibu City Council for his heroism.

But to Thornton and his family, no amount of awards, thank-you cards or hugs will ever do.

“It’s even beyond thankfulness and appreciation and [he is] our hero,” said one of Thornton’s family members.

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