BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP- A township police officer pulled a man from a vehicle that was fully engulfed in flames Monday evening, police said.
After a neighbor called to alert police, Officer Lauren Keilitz and Officer Michael Diblasi went to the site of a car fire on Biscayne Road at 8:44 p.m. that involved a 2005 BMW 745i.
When the officers arrived at the scene, they found the vehicle fully engulfed in flames and Mario Dischiavi, 57, incapacitated in the driver's seat.
Police said Keilitz observed Dischiavi in the driver's seat through a large amount of thick smoke after opening the rear passenger door of the car.
Diblasi attempted to open the driver's door, but was unable to release the latch and ran to his police car to get a tool to use to break the vehicle's window, police said in a news release.
Lt. Keith Germain said Keilitz, while fighting heat and flames from the fire, then pulled the driver's door open and pulled and dragged Dischiavi out of the burning vehicle.
Keilitz said when she arrived at the scene of the fire and ran up to the car she could hear music playing in the vehicle.
"When I got there, the first I thought was, wow this is a legitimate call. This car is fully engulfed in flames. As I got up to it, I'm thinking to myself, 'There can't be anyone in the this car,'" Keilitz said.
In a video supplied by police, Keilitz can be heard yelling, "Is there anyone in there!"
She said the neighbors were outside and began yelling, "He's in the car, he's in the car!"
"I went to the rear passenger side door first, and I realized this guy is sitting in the driver's seat. I tried to see if I could pull him through the passenger side, but I realized I wasn't going to be able to," she said.
She said she knew she didn't want to be around the burning vehicle any longer than she had to.
She said she then went over to the driver's side and opened up the door. Keilitz, who is 5-feet, 6-inches tall, realized she was going to have to get Dischiavi, who is about 6-feet, 2-inches tall, out of the burning vehicle.
"I pulled him by his jacket, and he was caught up in the seatbelt. There was a ton of smoke in the car. I pulled him out, and my partner and I sat him down in the back yard, and by then the fire department was there and putting water on it," she said.
"It was definitely adrenaline and focus. In my head it seemed to take a lot longer for him to focus and for me to get him out. I watched the video and when you look at it, it looks like I was standing in the middle of the fire," she said.
Police said Dischiavi was transported to Southern Ocean Medical Center, where he was treated for smoke inhalation. Keilitz and Diblasi were uninjured.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Keilitz, 36, is an eight-year veteran of the Barnegat Township Police Department and is a member of the department's patrol division and a firearms instructor.