SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — A San Francisco police officer is among several first responders being called heroes after they worked through thick smoke and leaking jet fuel to rescue passengers on Asiana Flight 214.

The flight, originating from Shanghai, China stopped in Seoul, Korea before it crashed at SFO Airport on Saturday. Police and fire personnel described those fateful moments at a news conference on Monday.

Officer Jim Cunningham, who is stationed at San Francisco International Airport, was recognized by both firefighters and police for his noble efforts.

But when he was asked by reporters if he was a hero, Cunningham replied that he was “just doing my job.”

He heard a Code 3 over his radio Saturday morning — which means’plane crash’ and quickly jumped in his squad car and raced across the tarmac and began assisting firefighters right away. He immediately saw a flight crew standing in a doorway.

“We kept on waiving; ‘get down, get down’ and then Officer Lee and I turned around and looked at the wing of the plane. It was just gushing with fuel right next to us,” Cunningham said.

Despite all of that, Cunningham, wearing just his blue, short-sleeve police uniform, climbed up an evacuation shoot.

“We went inside there and we were trying to get people out backwards. People had injuries; they couldn’t move out of their seats and were also just scared to move,” he said.

According to Cunningham, people trapped inside were mostly toward the rear of the aircraft.

Fire Lt. Dave Monteverdi was also inside the plane when he spotted an elderly man in the rear of the aircraft.

“He was groaning. We were running out of time. The smoke just started to get thicker and thicker. We had no choice. We just stood him up,” Monteverdi said.

They managed to get the elderly man off the plane.

All the firefighters and police officers agreed they had never seen anything like the plane crash before and several described it was surreal.

Minutes after the last passenger was cleared from the jet, it burst into flames.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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