Madera man saves family from flipped SUV seconds before car goes up in flames

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Madera man is being called a hero after he rescued a woman and her 2 kids from a burning SUV on the highway. The crash happened on Wednesday, just south of Madera.

The sights and sounds of the crash are still with Kirk Cardoso. "I just saw it lose control and hit the wall and it hit hard," he said.

Cardoso was driving north on the 99 to a job in his work truck when it happened and he stopped to help, "I could smell the gas leaking, knowing there was an open flame, that just pressed me to move faster."

Codee Cardoza was inside the wrecked SUV with her daughter Paiden and her 2-year-old son, "I lost track of time, flipping from when it started and when we stopped, it felt like forever," she said.

Cardoza's kids were trapped in the seats, dangling from safety restraints, "the seconds, the time frame when it happened, that's what gets me."

Time wasn't on her side but Cardoso was. He says he ran through traffic, jumped a divider and slid under the SUV to get the little boy out first.

"I told Codee I would have died trying," Cardoso added, "I wouldn't have let them sit in there and burn."

He says two other men jumped in to pull Cardoza's daughter out and he went back for mom, "she jumped, I gave her everything I had and she about tumbled out the window," Cardoso said.

Cardoza added, "as soon as I put my two feet on the ground it started to catch on fire."

Paramedics caught the fire on video from behind a wall of traffic, "traffic was so backed up, emergency responders would have never made it in time," Cardoso said.

The family escaped with cuts and bruises - all thanks to Cardoso who Paiden calls a hero sent from above, "he is an angel," she said.

But Cardoso says it was him who had one watching over the crash - his father-in-law who was a firefighter and passed away a few weeks ago.

"I think he gave a hand on that fateful day and he kept those flames down 'till everyone was to safety," Cardoso said.
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