Tampa father, Ruben Perry, rescued from burning car by police officers

TAMPA, Fla. -  TAMPA - The noise shook windows in the C. Blythe Andrews neighborhood so much that residents peered outside to see what they had just heard.

"We heard a screech, and then we heard boom!" exclaimed Alma Roberts, who lives on E. Curtis Street.  "So when we heard the boom we went running down there and the car was on fire," Roberts said.

Neighbors in the complex started handing out their fire extinguishers to help blast the car with flame suppressant, but the blaze continued to burn.

Tampa police said Ruben Perry, 35, crashed his 1984 Monte Carlo into a Cadillac that was riding along N. 22nd Ave. and E. Cayuga St.  Smoke and flames started in the front of the vehicle, and it was only a matter of time before they consumed Perry, who was unconscious inside.

Perry, a father of seven, can thank Austin Dorsett for still being alive to spend Father's Day with his children.

Dorsett's home was less than 100 feet from the scene of the crash, and the former marine didn't hesitate to take action after realizing a person was inside the vehicle.

"I'm like, I ain't worrying about the fire, if it blew up.  I was just trying to get him out of there," Dorsett said.

When asked why he would risk going near a burning car, Dorsett said he's faced bullets flying at him while in the Marine Corps, so a few flames didn't faze him.

Several Tampa Police officers were also at the scene, and Dorsett said he was among those who helped pull Perry out of the burning car.

But it wasn't easy.  Just as flames started reaching Perry's face, he became stuck between the gearshift and the steering wheel.

"So we pulled on him one last time, and whoosh, he slid right out of there.  And then the fire went up just as we pulled him out," Dorsett said.  "If we didn't pull him out at that time, he would have been burned up."

Dorsett's wife, Ariane James, nervously watched her husband as he was trying to get Perry out of the vehicle.

"I see my husband over there pulling on the man while the car is on fire, and I'm like, oh my God!  I hope the car doesn't blow up," James said.

Tampa Police held a news conference at the district three office to recognize seven officers involved in the rescue.  Three helped pull Perry out of the car, while four others used fire extinguishers to put out the flames long enough for the others to get Perry from the burning car, police said.

"Either that guy was coming out, or they were all going to burn alive," said Tampa officer Jon Stanjeski.  "You think to the man upstairs, 'Hey, can we use a little help?'"

Officer Shawn Purcell said they weren't about to give up when they realized that Perry was stuck under the dashboard.

"We all yanked him out and got about ten feet away," Purcell said.  "We looked up, and the entire car was engulfed in flames."

Ruben Perry said that he would like to meet his rescuers in person, and was grateful he was able to spend Father's Day with his kids, aged three to 18. 

A police sergeant supervising the seven officers involved in the rescue dubbed them "The Magnificent Seven."



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