Agency photographer saves man from burning car

A paparazzo working for the World Entertainment News Network became the story when he rescued a man from a burning car in south London.

Ben Benjilali entered the car when it was ablaze to drag the man, in his 60s, to safety.

He told Press Gazette: “If you put the scenario in front of most people, they would probably think I would start taking pictures, instead of rescuing him. Paparazzi aren’t that bad.”

Benjilali was returning from a friend’s house in Crystal Palace on his motorbike when he noticed smoke coming out of the bonnet of a Triumph Dolomite.

As he pulled away from traffic lights, he saw in his mirrors a small flame coming from the car’s underside. As he went to tell the man, it burst into flames.

“Initially, I stepped back, I thought there was nothing I could do,” he said. “I then ran up to the door, but slipped on the oil, and my leg went under the car.

“I entered the car but couldn’t find the button on his seatbelt. I had to step out of the car, because of the heat, but I thought: ‘This is wasting time, these are precious seconds’.”

Benjilali re-entered the burning car and, with the help of two passing Polish builders, dragged the man to safety.

Once the man was out, the car’s handbrake burned out, and the car, still on fire, rolled down the hill. It avoided traffic after veering into the pavement and hitting the bollard.

“Looking at it now, the moment the car was on fire, it was like reality wasn’t a factor,” said Benjilali.

“Every time you see these stories, everyone says the same thing. There’s something in every human being, almost like it wasn’t my choice to save the man.”

The driver did not suffer any injuries and was not taken to hospital.

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