Prince George’s Police Capt. John Boesman (Prince George's Police Department)

Last spring, Prince George’s County police Capt. John Boesman stumbled onto a fiery scene: An SUV with a 70-year-old man inside had flipped on Martin Luther King Highway and burst into flames. Boesman tried to save the man trapped in the vehicle before rescue crews arrived, injuring himself in the process.

On Wednesday at the county’s 37th Annual Public Safety Valor Awards, Boesman was named the 2013 Prince George’s County’s Police Officer of the Year for his heroic actions.

“It’s a great honor,” Boesman said. “I’m a little overwhelmed.”

The incident began a little after noon on March 18, 2013. As the first person at the scene of the SUV crash, Boesman sprang into action, hoping to pull Rodwell McNeill from the burning car. After shattering a window in the SUV, Boesman worked to free the driver. Flames licked Boesman’s face and hands during his rescue efforts.

As Boesman worked, fire quickly consumed the SUV. The man trapped inside died. Boesman said McNeill’s death wasn’t how he wanted the rescue to end, and he thinks about the incident every day.

Boesman, a 21-year veteran of the department, suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hands and face. He also had to get stitches for an injury to his palm.

Despite the injuries, Boesman said there was never any doubt that he was going to do everything he could to try to save the man in the burning car.

“You just react,” Boesman said. “You just push, push, push.”

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