Police, civilians awarded for heroic attempt to save woman from burning vehicle

Five civilians and an Edmonton police officer were recognized for their heroic acts of selflessness and bravery.

'A big explosion, a big fire, something you didn't think was going to happen, happened'

Sasa Novakovic (centre) accepts a commendation for bravery at the Edmonton Police Service Recognition Ceremony on Wednesday. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Like most people who act bravely while trying to help somebody, Ryan Brewster doesn't believe he's a hero. 

On the evening of Oct. 24, last year, Brewster was near 97th Street and 160th Avenue in north Edmonton when he saw a speeding car slam into the back of an SUV, which burst into flames and veered off the road.

"A big explosion. A big fire," Brewster recalled. "Something you didn't think was going to happen, happened.

"First thing I did was react and just said I've got to help."

They tried everything they could to save that woman.-  Const. Sasa Novakovic

Brewster and four other passersby ran to the burning SUV to get the driver out.

Moments later, Edmonton police officer Sasa Novakovic, who was also passing by, was alarmed to see so many people near the burning vehicle.

He feared a "full Hollywood explosion" and went to get everyone away from the SUV.

"It wasn't until that moment that I realized why they were reaching into this vehicle. Because they were trying to help this woman who was trapped."

Const. Novakovic had to drag one man away from the fire for his own safety, he said.
Ryan Brewster was recognized by the Edmonton Police Service as one of five people who tried to rescue a woman from a burning vehicle in October. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Despite their efforts, they could not save the driver. 

Last night, Brewster, Novakovic, Bradley Chalmers, Benjamin Sacks, Neal Seifeddine and John Wajaras were recognized for their courage at the crash scene at the Edmonton Police Commission Citizen Awards.

The awards acknowledge citizens who have intervened in a crime in progress, assisted the Edmonton Police Service in apprehending an offender, played a major role in the successful outcome of a police investigation, or put themselves at personal risk by coming to the aid of a police officer or fellow citizen in a dangerous situation.

Novakovic described the commendation as bittersweet.

"I want to express my deep appreciation and respect for the actions they performed on that day because they were completely selfless and completely courageous and they tried everything they could to save that woman," Novakovic said.

But Brewster maintained he's not a hero.

"There's people that do this for a living," said Brewster. "There's heroes and people that deserve awards on a daily basis — our police service, our firefighters, our ambulance drivers.

"I was just someone who showed up, did what I could and apparently they liked what I did."