Police hail motorist a hero
Collie crash rescuer Tom Alvarez. Picture: Sharom Smith/The West Australian

As flames lapped at the twisted metal of what was once a Ford Falcon utility, Thomas Alvarez knew the unconscious men inside did not have long to live.

The 28-year-old Bunbury man, armed with a $40 fire extinguisher, doused the flames before turning his attention to the passenger side door.

The fractured door handle would not budge - a result of the six-cylinder ute slamming into a tree along the Collie-Williams Road at more than 100kmh - so Mr Alvarez wrapped his fingers inside the slightly ajar door and pulled.

"The hospital said I strained the muscles in my chest and arms yanking the door off," he said. "I'm not a small fella and I was pulling with all my strength."

Police hailed Mr Alvarez a hero yesterday after the BGC Contracting mobile crusher operator dragged a 22-year-old man from the burning wreck of the crash at 3pm on Thursday.

Despite his heroic rescue of the passenger, the driver, 20-year-old Michael Hovell, died at the scene.

Mr Alvarez said he was on his way to work at Koolyanobbing iron ore mine when he came across the "carnage" 30km north-east of Collie.

"The fire was coming from underneath the floor pan on the driver's side," he said.

"The scrub was on fire and the car was on fire when I went to open the passenger door.

"The steering wheel wasn't even connected to the steering column. It was sitting on the passenger side.

"The tray had been broken off the chassis.

"It's the worst thing that I've ever seen in my life.

"I wouldn't wish for anybody to come across an accident like that."

With significant impact to the driver's side, Mr Alvarez prioritised getting the passenger out of the smouldering ute.

As another good Samaritan disconnected the battery, Mr Alvarez inched the passenger out before putting him safely on the side of the road.

Seconds later, the crumpled Ford burst into flames again.

"After we got the passenger out the flames started coming up and through the firewall towards the driver's legs," Mr Alvarez said.

"We just continued to do everything possible to put it out.

"We ended up getting the fire out 15 minutes before the police and ambulance showed up.

"By then we pretty well knew that the driver wasn't going to make it.

"We tried to help as much as we could and make the guy comfortable."

Mr Alvarez said he was "gutted" that Mr Hovell had died but said he was humbled to have had the chance to save a life.

"I'm really, really happy for (the survivor)," he said.

"I just think it's fantastic that I was able to prevent the police having to make that phone call to his parents."

Mr Alvarez reserved special praise for the "mystery man" who assisted but vanished before emergency services arrived.

"Thank God the other guy disconnected the battery," Mr Alvarez said.

"I don't know his name but he ended up helping and left quite quickly.

"He did an absolutely fantastic job."

Det-Sen. Sgt Brian Hunter described Mr Alvarez's actions as "heroic".

"That was a heroic act," he said.

"The vehicle had caught alight and that could have been a far more tragic outcome for that passenger who was injured. It was fantastic, quick actions on behalf of that member of the public."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

More from The West