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2 Officers Saved From Flames in Crash With Bus

July 01, 1987|CLAUDIA PUIG and GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writers

Two Los Angeles police officers were pulled from their flaming squad car by a man with a bad back Tuesday after the car collided with a school bus while chasing a stolen pickup truck, authorities said.

There were no children on the bus.

Officers Steve Mulldorfer, 40, and Julian Almarez, 29, were rescued by Gregory Vega, 62, of Pacoima, who was driving with his 11-year-old grandson near Paxton Street and Dronfield Avenue in Pacoima when he witnessed the collision.

"I just thought I have to save them," Vega said. "I didn't think of the fire."

The bus driver, Dorothy Wilson, 20, employed by Laidlaw Transportation Co., was on the way to the Glendale and Burbank areas to pick up children taking part in a regional occupational program, said Laidlaw spokesman Ed Judson. Wilson, who was trapped in the overturned bus, was removed by Los Angeles firefighters.

The officers, Wilson and Vega were taken to nearby Holy Cross Hospital.

Mulldorfer, a 17-year-veteran, suffered a concussion and numerous broken ribs, while Almarez, a five-year veteran, suffered a concussion and bruised ribs. Both were in stable condition, police said. Wilson and Vega were both treated for minor injuries and released, authorities said.

The officers spotted the pickup truck, which had reportedly been stolen Monday in Van Nuys, at about 12:30 p.m. on the Foothill Freeway at Hubbard Avenue and chased it, with red light and siren, Sgt. Louis Page said. The collision occurred about five minutes later, he said. The broadside impact overturned the bus and demolished the front end of the police car.

Vega, who is recovering from a recent back operation, said he acted instinctively.

"I saw their bloody faces, then I saw a hole in the door, kicked it in, stuck my hand through the opening and opened the door," Vega, who is from Puerto Rico, said in Spanish. "I forgot about my back, I forgot about my leg, I forgot about my operation when I saw the policemen with blood on their faces."

Vega, a retired truck driver and the father of 10, then dragged each of the officers to the curb.

Two men were arrested minutes later after the truck collided with a parked car about a mile from the accident, Page said. The suspects, Lefall Terrence, 21, and Madero Hall, 20, both of Panorama City, were booked for investigation of vehicle theft.

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