Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Comox man receives heroism award for saving woman from burning vehicle

Junyi Liu was working at a Comox gas station when a woman drove in and struck a pump with her car.

A Comox man has been recognized with North America’s highest civilian honour for heroism for pulling a woman from a burning car at a gas station last year.

Junyi Liu is one of 17 people in Canada and the United States receiving a Carnegie Medal for Heroism, an award that recognizes people who put themselves in extreme danger to save or attempt to save the lives of others.

Liu, a co-owner of the Esso gas station on Anderton Road in Comox, was inside the station on May 20, 2023, when a 76-year-old woman pulled in to the station and struck a pump. The front of the car burst into flames.

Liu immediately turned off the electrical breakers to the pumps, but about three litres of gas already in the fuel pump caught fire.

Heat from the flames burned rubber nozzles on a propane dispenser nearby, which spilled propane on the already burned vehicle, accelerating the fire. The flames quickly grew to more than three metres high.

Liu ran out of the store with a fire extinguisher that malfunctioned, so he ran to the car and opened the front passenger door to try to reach the woman in the driver’s seat, which was closest to the flames.

When he couldn’t reach her, he ran around to the driver’s side as the woman started to open her door.

While flames licked the carport’s ceiling, Liu pushed the door all the way open, picking up the woman and carrying her to safety. A bystander joined in to help.

Within 10 seconds of the crash, flames engulfed the entire carport.

The driver was in shock and suffered minor burns to her face but recovered. Liu received minor burns on his hand and arm that he did not seek treatment for.

At the time, Comox Fire Rescue Chief Gord Schreiner called the two who helped save the woman “heroic” for pulling the woman out of the car just seconds before it was engulfed in flames.

The woman seemed dazed after the crash and didn’t look like she was going to get out on her own, Schreiner said.

Others recognized with a Carnegie Medal include a college wrestler who pulled a grizzly bear off his friend and was then attacked himself, a recreational rock climber who climbed slick sandstone to reach a badly injured BASE jumper and a delivery driver who ran into a gunfight to drag a wounded police officer to safety.

Recipients receive a financial grant. In the 120 years since the fund was established by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $45 million has been given in grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.

[email protected]

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: [email protected]