Alfonso Rodriguez was planning to have fun with his two children as they drove into San Francisco for St. Patrick’s Day festivities when they came upon a fiery crash.

He pulled over along the Highway 101 – Interstate 280 interchange and hopped out with his 14-year-old son to try and help the man trapped inside the burning car.

“I just knew there was a man inside that needed help. He was burning and on fire,” Rodriguez said.

When the doors wouldn’t open, 14-year-old Alfonso III ran back to their vehicle for a wrench while his 6-year-old sister waited inside and flames started creeping into the driver’s compartment of the other car.

They were able to smash open the window and free a very grateful Anthony Lavelle.

The 31-year-old San Francisco man, still recovering from his burn wounds, was on hand to thank them when the two received commendations from the California Highway Patrol on Friday.

“You’re talking about a complete stranger putting his life on the line for someone who he has no idea who it is,” he said.

Lavelle is expected to make a full recovery, an outcome CHP Captain Paul Fontana said would be impossible if father and son had not been in the right place at the right time on March 13 of this year.

“He just knew that there was a need for him to stop and act. By his actions, he saved without a doubt, Mr. Lavelle from burning to death,” Fontana said.

The elder Rodriguez, whose efforts are all the more remarkable because his right arm became paralyzed after a crash some years ago, said he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.


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