It’s been awhile since Sgt. Dale Marshall was patrolling the streets. The IMPD training instructor was off duty driving to buy some milk for his niece when several people flagged him down screaming for help.
The crash happened under the I-465 overpass near 6100 W. 71st Street Friday night. Sgt. Marshall pulled up to find a White Ford Explorer in flames. The driver, 40-year-old Miguel Penaloza, was unconscious inside.
“I heard citizens just yelling and screaming saying, ‘You got to get him out! You got to get him out!'” said Sgt. Marshall. “It was pretty traumatic. It was totally engulfed. There was smoke everywhere. It was just very difficult to see.”
Sgt. Marshall immediately got on his radio and called for help. Shortly after, Officer Aaron Stanley arrived on scene. They immediately took action trying to get Penaloza out of the burning car.
“The door was actually hot. I made several attempts to try to dislodge the door. The only thing was down was the windows,” he said.
Officer Stanley reached inside the SUV and pulled the seat belt over Penaloza — all while breathing in thick smoke and barely able to see.
“We would take steps back to get some fresh air all while we’re hearing popping from the vehicle, not knowing if it was going to explode or what was going to happen,” said Sgt. Marshall.
Officer Christopher Frazier got to the scene. He told police he could only see the lower part of Officer Stanley’s leg sticking out of the vehicle. Fearing for Stanley’s life, Frazier grabbed Stanley by his gun belt and pulled him out along with the victim.
The three officers, along with some bystanders, used their clothes and jackets to put out the remaining flames.
“[The victim] was on fire throughout the whole event,” said Sgt. Marshall. “His hair was on fire. I had to hit his head just to put out the fire. It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Officer Stanley was taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his face and hands. Sgt. Marshall calls him the real hero.
“He’s the true hero in this. I was assisting him,” said Sgt. Marshall. “We’re responsible for taking action. We take an oath to serve and protect and that’s what we did. By the grace of God we were able to get the driver out.”
Police believe Penaloza may have been drinking before the crash. He is currently in critical condition at Wishard Hospital. He suffered multiple compound fractures, third-degree burns over his entire body, amputation of his right foot and internal injuries.