March 14--TAMPA -- Jim Flaherty came to work Wednesday morning with blood on the sleeve of his button-down shirt.
Flaherty and another man had just helped save the life of a young woman whose car burst into flames after she crashed on the side of the road.
"You had to help her," said Flaherty, who works at an office at Tampa International Airport as deputy assistant federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration.
"You just couldn't leave her there," he said. "She's a lucky little girl. I was lucky to be there to help her out."
At around 5 a.m., Flaherty was heading south on Gunn Highway on his way to work when he noticed a white Buick pass him. About three miles later he noticed three vehicles stopped on Gunn Highway between North Mobley Road and Race Track Road.
He pulled over and saw the white Buick had run off the road and hit a tree. He could see the car smoldering.
"You could hear her screaming from my car, 'Help me. Help me,'" Flaherty said.
A man in another vehicle ran to help, he said. Two women who were also on the scene called emergency dispatch.
Flaherty ran to help the woman who was trapped.
When he got to the car, flames were rising from the engine. The woman was screaming and told them she had a broken right leg.
They tried to open the driver's door, but it was blocked by a large tree. They raced to the passenger side and opened the door. They tried pulling her out, but her right leg was caught on a pedal.
The other man jumped in the backseat and untangled her foot. They pulled her out.
"My main concern was not to move her, but the flames were licking up more and more," Flaherty said.
Both men grabbed her under her arm. They carried her about 50 feet in the dark from the embankment to the side of the road. Moments later, the car was engulfed in flames.
"It happened so fast. I don't think I actually felt any fear," Flaherty said. "It doesn't seem like a big deal to me. I think it's something you have to do."
Flaherty spoke to the woman, but she didn't say much. He got her name, Megan, her age, 24, and that she was from New Port Richey. She worked at a McDonald's. He suspects it's one not too far from the crash scene.
The woman was flown by emergency helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital. Her injuries aren't life threatening, said Debbie Carter, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. She was cited for careless driving, Carter said.
"It shows there are Good Samaritans out there," Carter said, "someone who would stop and render aid to a complete stranger."
Flaherty spent 20 years with the New York Police Department. He was a detective for 13 years with the sex crime squad. In his office at Tampa International Airport, he has framed certificates from his NYPD days and a photo of him receiving a commendation from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
He's helped people pinned in their vehicle from a crash but never from a burning car, he said.
Flaherty, 58, retired from NYPD in 1999. He came to Tampa to work for the Transportation Security Administration in 2002.
When Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived on the scene, they found sheriff's deputies had blocked traffic and were protecting the woman. Flaherty and the other man had left, said Nacole Revette, a fire rescue spokeswoman. Flaherty never got his name.
Flaherty got a lot of attention on Wednesday from colleagues and the media. Flaherty, the father of five adult children and a resident of New Port Richey, prefers to be "off the radar," he said.
"Thanks to the other guy because I couldn't have done it alone," Flaherty said. "There are good people out there."
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