Orange County

This man was lucky the Hillsborough police got to his car in time

Hillsborough Police Officer Mike Toellen, pictured with his K9 Officer Viper, rescued a man from a burning car early Thursday on Old N.C. 86, south of town.
Hillsborough Police Officer Mike Toellen, pictured with his K9 Officer Viper, rescued a man from a burning car early Thursday on Old N.C. 86, south of town. Contributed

A police officer’s quick work may have saved a man from being overcome by smoke and fire in his burning car Thursday.

Police K-9 Officer Mike Toellen answered the call to help the Orange County Sheriff’s Office with a car on fire in the middle of a field south of Hillsborough at 1:39 a.m. A resident flagged down the officers as they arrived at 4607 Old N.C. 86, police reported.

In a video from Toellen’s body-worn camera, he can be seen running to the scene, where he found smoke and flames in and around the car.

Toellen opened the driver’s side front and rear doors, calling for the person inside, but no one appeared in the haze. He then ran to the rear passenger-side door, opening it to find a man lying on the back seat with his head near the door.

Toellen was able to drag the man to safety before the car became fully engulfed in flames a short time later. Police reported the car was a total loss, but Toellen and the man inside the car were uninjured.

“This is the kind of officer Mike Toellen is,” Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton said in a news release. “Every day he goes out to help the community, and in this case, he was able to save a life in a dangerous situation.”

Toellen joined the Hillsborough Police Department in 2015, Hampton said, as a second career. He has lived and worked in the area for a long time and previously worked in the automotive industry, Hampton said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Orange Rural Fire Department investigated the incident. It’s not clear how the car ended up in the field, but Hampton said he does not believe the man who was rescued was the driver.

It was the second time a Hillsborough police officer had saved a life in recent weeks.

Officer Jason Dimitri was able to save a person July 30 who overdosed on an unknown narcotic at a home in the Churton Grove neighborhood north of Hillsborough, officials said in the release. Dimitri revived the person using naloxone, a drug that counteracts the effects of opioid medication.

Most officers and deputies in Orange County carry naloxone as part of their regular toolkit.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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