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Off-Duty Paramedic Saves Driver Who Hit Him

TORONTO -- Geoff MacBride remembers the deafening crash -- and the horrifying feeling of flying through the air.

Then he heard the screams of bystanders as the minivan that had just hit his SUV burst into flames, its driver trapped inside.

Without a second thought, the off-duty paramedic sprinted toward the burning van to try to save the life of the driver who had just endangered his own.

MacBride, 37, pulled out the driver and dragged him across three lanes of traffic, fearful the van would explode at the crash scene near Woodbine Ave. and O'Connor Dr. Friday afternoon.

"It's amazing that I'm alive, that's all I keep thinking," MacBride said Sunday.

There was no pause, no second thought in MacBride's mind. His colleagues have called his actions "heroic." Two days after the accident, the hero is a bit stiff.

"I'm fairly immobile, I can't turn my neck, I can't lift my arm," said MacBride, recalling the shock waves the impact of the crash sent down his spine. "But you know, I will live, I will get better. I'm just happy to be alive."

Staff Sgt. James Hung confirmed the 34-year-old Toronto driver of the van was charged with impaired driving. He has since been released from custody.

Meanwhile, in the apartment MacBride shares with his cat, there was a parade of family and friends Sunday night, amazed at the paramedic's feats. Praise also came from fellow paramedics, like Adam Hobbs.

"Most people, including myself, would be checking ourselves to make sure we're still in one piece," Hobbs said. "Meanwhile (MacBride's) out there saving the guy who almost killed him. It's incredible, really."

The collision happened at about 5:30 p.m. Friday when MacBride was stopped, waiting to make a left turn.

"I saw him coming at me. The last thing I remember thinking is, 'Wow, he's going awfully fast,' " MacBride said. "Then I went flying up in the air."

The frame of MacBride's SUV buckled, and the back of his truck was now in the front. He was half a block from where he was waiting to turn before the minivan plowed into his SUV.

When he stopped, MacBride looked down and saw that "everything is in place," and then sprinted toward the flaming van.

He said he was thankful the driver door on the van opened, describing how he went into "work mode" and dragged the driver across the street.

As if saving the other driver's life wasn't enough, MacBride had a second opportunity to be a hero that day.

Fire crews had already extinguished the blaze, and left the scene, but the smouldering fire later reignited while MacBride was being treated in a nearby ambulance.

MacBride, who is president of the Toronto Paramedic Association, was the first to notice and the first to leap out of the ambulance with a fire extinguisher in hand.

"That's what we do. That's why people call us when they're having a bad day," he laughed, adding it was "kind of funny because the fire guys had to come back twice to put the same fire out."



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