It had already been a long day – the end of a double shift — when 26-year-old hotel worker Justin Taylor saw the car screeching down the smoke-filled street and then slam into a light pole.
Taylor, his friend Leo Volobrynskyy and cab driver Anwar Ghanem could have just waited for the cops, but the unconscious driver faced even greater harm when the car began to smolder.
“We were yelling, ‘Wake up, or you’re going to die,’” Taylor said of the 1:30 a.m. incident on Nov. 21 near the intersection of Folsom and 13th streets in South of Market.
Having called 911, the three men knew they needed to act fast. Ghanem broke one of the windows with part of a metal post sheered off by the collision, allowing the heat to escape long enough for Daniel Solorzano of the San Francisco police to arrive with other officers and cut the man out of his seatbelt. Minutes later, the car was engulfed in flames.
All four men were honored with Good Samaritan awards Monday morning in Mayor Ed Lee’s chambers at City Hall, where their families stood by to watch their loved ones receive praise from San Francisco’s highest office.
Lee said he is proud of the bold actions of ordinary San Francisco citizens, especially during the holiday season.
“These are young kids, too,” Lee said. “But they’ve got a heart of gold.”
Volobrynskyy said he was happy to receive the award, but it wasn’t really a choice for him at the time.
“When you’re doing it, you don’t feel like you’re doing anything special,” he said. “You just do what needs to be done.”