SPOKANE, Wash. – A woman and Spokane Police officer spoke out Sunday about an incredible rescue the two were involved in Friday evening.
Spokane Police Officer Tim Schwering was first on scene to a vehicle fire where a woman, Kim Novak, was trapped inside. Officer Schwering said he was "glad he was there at the time."
Novak said she was driving home from the grocery store in her 2012 Chevy Malibu when she hit frozen slush in the road and it made a little bump. Then, the engine and lights shut off. Everything went pitch black and her car eventually came to a stop. Novak said she tried to start the car again with no luck. She then tried to get out of the car but because of the power locks, she was stuck.
Novak then tried to make a call home but no one answered. As she was leaving a voicemail, she started to see a huge plume of smoke. That's when she decided to call 911.
"At this time I'm starting to hear crackling. I'm realizing where there's smoke, there's fire and oh crap my car's now on fire," Novak explained.
She was still on the phone with 911 when she started to see flames in front of the windshield that were at least a foot high. The dispatcher told her to try to break out the window.
"I got on my back and started kicking the windows with both of my feet with all my might. I kicked and kicked and I didn't even make a crack," she said.
The flames and smoke continued to grow. Novak began to panic.
"I'm screaming and I'm yelling 'Help me' and praying and asking God please don't let me die this way."
The dispatcher stayed on the phone with her. She hoped her neighbors heard her calls for help. Then she went to the back seat and started to try to break a window back there. She felt helpless.
"I knew it wasn't going to be long until it was inside with me. I honestly thought I was going to meet my maker. I thought that was the end for me. It's terrifying," Novak explained with tears in her eyes.
Then, Officer Schwering showed up. He told her it was going to be ok and he was going to get her out of there.
“When I got there, there was the car in the middle of the road that was engulfed in flames, the front end was engulfed in flames. There was a woman in the backseat,” Schwering said.
Once Novak said she could not get her door open through a window, Officer Schwering took out his baton and started beating on the window of the door.
"He was swinging on that thing like Ken Griffey Jr. in the home run derby and beating it with all his might," Novak said. "God bless him he didn't give up and kept trying to save me."
“It was starting to get a little warmer and the smoke was really coming into the cabin so I just basically ripped the glass off with my hands and instructed her to start moving,” said Schwering.
He finally made a hole big enough in the window to get Novak out of the car.
"It was like a baby going through the birth canal. I was coming out," Novak said.
A neighbor and Schwering then pulled Novak from the burning car to get her to safety. Besides some cuts and a little bit of a cough, Novak was just fine.
"He's a hero. He didn't have to do that. He didn't have to stand here. The flames were so intense and close to him. He's a police officer and could have just as easily stood back and waited for the fire department to get here and put the flames out but then it could have been to late," she said. "He didn't ever give up. So he's my hero."
During the incident, Schwering said he just kept thinking, “Stay focused and keep doing what you’re doing, just speed it up a bit.”
Just out of the training months before, Schwering said he had never experienced an incident like this.
“I worked here for about three years, I just got out of the training car a few months ago. No, I have never been in that situation,” said Schwering.
In regards to saving the Novak's life, “It’s just rewarding, I’m glad I was there at the time. But, again, I work for a great department,” Schwering said, “I can tell you there’s 10 guys who work on my team and if any one of those guys could have gotten there before I did and any one of those guys would have done the exact same thing.”
In light of the last four years and negativity involving law enforcement, Schwering said it feels good to be supported by his community.
“I deal with citizens of Spokane, I get very positive feedback from them. For the most part the citizens are very supportive of law enforcement. I think we have a great community here and I couldn’t be happier,” said Schwering.
Early the next morning, the officer was able to meet with Novak, and bring her ice cream, the thing she was going to the store for and wine, the thing he said he thought she could use.
“It was just good seeing her again. I just wanted to check on her, make sure she was doing ok. She’s doing well and it was good to see her again,” he said.
"You just don't hear about that kind of compassion and follow through. And the officers get a lot of bad rap and here's a guy who's a genuine hero," Novak explained.
Officer Schwering got the night off after the incident following a trip to the hospital for symptoms related to smoke inhalation.
Novak was treated and released at the scene and the neighbor that assisted received a minor cut from the broken driver’s side window.