Elderly man rescued from burning car rewards 'hero'
SAN ANTONIO (KABB) - Despite the pain he feels with each and every step, Joe Monaco believes he’s like a lucky man.
"The gentleman saved my life," he said. Back in July of 2013, Monaco, who’s nearing his mid-80’s, was trapped behind the wheel of his burning car.
"I saw the flames,” he told Fox San Antonio’s Ryan Wolf. “But I couldn't get out the driver's door. So I moved to the right when I saw the flames starting to come inside. "
Patsy Monaco, his wife of 22 years, ran outside when she heard a loud “boom” sound.
She thought her husband, a retired Air Force veteran with 30 years in the military, accidentally hit the garage of their home on Constitution Drive.
“I ran around and already saw flames engulfed the car," she recalled.
It turned out he hit a gas line too.
Monaco said his sandal got caught under the vehicle’s accelerator.
“I was screaming and screaming and screaming for someone to help me," his wife said.
Flames filled the 2011 Cadillac in just seconds, according to Monaco. Their home quickly caught fire too.
"I thought he was going to die," Monaco said. That's when a neighbor turned from stranger to hero after saving Monaco’s life.
“He ran around to the passenger side and the next thing I know he was pulling Joe out and telling me to help him get to the lawn,” Monaco said.
“Why?” Wolf asked. “Because he was on fire?”
“Yes," she responded.
Scars from that day still remain.
Monaco spent a month at SAMMC for serious burns, endured multiple skin grafts on his left arm and leg and suffered a stroke during the long and painful recovery.
But ever since that fateful day, the Monaco’s forged a friendship with their savior.
“The man deserves all the praise, all the thanks he can possibly get," the wife said.
That's why they turned to CASH FOR KINDNESS.
James Rosprim, who also served in the military for several years before he was injured in Afghanistan, had no idea about the surprise.
The Monaco’s invited him over their house.
Fox San Antonio cameras were rolling when he arrived.
Rosprim’s face looked shocked.
“James, I called Ryan with CASH FOR KINDNESS because there aren't enough words to express how we feel about you for what you did saving Joe's life,” his wife told Rosprim. “We can't thank you enough. You put yourself at risk and didn't think twice. You ran into the fire and pulled him out. Had it not been for you, I would have lost my husband that night. He would have burned in the car."
The former military medic said his boss just happened to send him home from work a few hours earlier on that day.
It put him in just the right place, at just the right time.
Rosprim credited his training and said instincts kicked in.
“She said fire,” he recalled. “Trapped in car! I just did what I needed to do. I wasn't looking for this or trying to be on the news."
Wolf shared how his nomination came with a cash award from Fox San Antonio.
“We reward selfless acts of kindness," he told Rosprim.
This week’s recipient counted the money out loud after it was placed in his hands.
“Wow!” he said. “Thank you.”
Rosprim had a difficult time describing how his CASH FOR KINDNESS surprise made him feel inside.
He said war injuries and PTSD have impacted certain aspects of his life.
"I don't know… I just,” he said before taking a long pause.
The Monaco’s said he didn’t have to say anything at all.
He’s loved like family.
“You're my hero," Joe said to him while they embraced with a hug.
The Monaco's consider Rosprim like a son.
They're currently helping him apply for a Purple Heart medal.
Rosprim is married with 2 children and said the money will help with bills.
Click here to nominate someone for the CASH FOR KINDNESS prize