EAST MORICHES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island good Samaritan was being hailed for his bravery Tuesday night, after rescuing a couple from a burning car.

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the flames seemed to explode out of the car’s engine in the accident early Tuesday morning, leaping into the night sky from a wooded area of East Moriches off the westbound Sunrise Highway.

The fire erupted mere moments after a Long Island good Samaritan risked his life to pull two strangers to safety.

“They were in shock,” said the good Samaritan, volunteer firefighter Joe Tortorice. “I really couldn;t see his face, it was covered in blood. She was screaming the whole time, she was in pain.”

Alexandra Mondi, 23, was at the wheel at the time of the crash. Her leg looked mangled afterward.

Her 27-year-old roommate, Michael LaFreniere, feared he had broken his spine.

They appeared helpless during the dramatic rescue.

“They were in and out a lot,” Tortorice said. “They realized they had veered off the road, but they didn’t know why they were lying on the ground.”

Tortorice said by chance, he was headed east on Sunrise Highway and about to take Exit 61 toward his firehouse, when he saw something distant in the trees.

“Faintly, I saw a taillight into the woods, and right then and there the adrenaline in me kicked in, and the fireman in me kicked in,” he said. “I saw a little flame next you know it, 3 or 4 seconds later the entire engine compartment was engulfed in flames, so my first reaction was I started with her — I started to pull her away. I got him back to lay down, and I began to just do my EMS stuff that I know; basic life support.”

Police said Mondi and LaFreniere were returning to their Riverhead home when they accidentally swerved off the highway.

Good Samaritan Tortorice dragged them 60 feet, called 911, and helped load them into the ambulance. Both were rushed to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center.

Mondi and LaFreniere’s families said Tortorice heroically saved their lives at Christmas, but Tortorice was humble about it.

“I did my job,” he said. “Hero is a very big word, very big word. I was just doing my job/

The victims may have to spend Christmas in the hospital, but their families said they are eager to be reunited with Tortorice and thank him personally for saving their lives.

Suffolk County police said they do not know whether either victim could have escaped from the car and flames without Tortorice’s efforts.

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