Good Samaritans Rescue Camden Man From Burning House

Good Samaritans Rescue Camden Man From Burning House

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CAMDEN, N.J. -

In some of our region's toughest neighborhoods, folks sometimes view police as the enemy. However, on one North Camden block, a pair of men in blue new to the county police force just helped save a life.

All it took was being in the right place, at the right time and the courage to run toward danger.

A new cell phone video shows smoke coming from a second floor bedroom on the 800 block of North 8th street late Saturday afternoon.

Inside the homeowner, Wilfredo Ortiz had collapsed and death seemed certain.

His friend and neighbor, Emilio Ortega, heard the commotion and came running.

Ortega says he helped kick in the front door and raced through the gathering smoke up the stairs, where Ortiz had collapsed.

Ortiz, believed to be in his early 50s, is a big man. Too big for Ortega to drag by himself.

That's when Camden County Police Officers Jovan Plaza and Frank Laspata, who are new on the force, arrived. They just came on duty that day and smelled smoke. The two raced to the open front door.

"Smoke was just coming out of it. Me and Laspata hopped out and we went in," said Jovan said.

On the landing to the main stairway, a neighbor was struggling to get Ortiz out of the burning home. The police hurried to assist.

"There was a lot of smoke. I was just coughing. Seeing the man laying there not moving, my first thought was to just get him out as fast as we can and get him help," Laspata said.

A surveillance camera shows what happened next. With police grabbing Ortiz by the arms and neighbors grabbing his feet, they succeeded in helping Ortega drag Ortiz out of the burning house to safety.

Ortiz was rushed to the hospital. The officers and neighbors were unhurt.

"Team effort. Team effort. We all did it together...and we got the guy out," Laspata said.

Plaza, 20, grew up in Camden. His father is a cop. Life-saving moments like Saturday are why he goes to work each day.

"Basically, my whole reason for being a police officer is to help others. That's what I've always wanted to do and I feel blessed to be able to be in this position," Plaza said.

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