Lots of actors have played first responders, action heroes, and tough guys in movies and on TV. Most of us realize that the actors aren’t really the same as the characters they’re playing. For a few celebrities, though, they’ve had an opportunity to rescue someone in real life. Mark Harmon and his wife, Pam Dawber, rescued a teenage boy from a burning car in 1996. Jamie Foxx and Vin Diesel also have similar car rescue stories.
Mark Harmon and his wife rescued a teen
Since 2003, Harmon has been playing Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the CBS show NCIS, the most-watched non-football show on television. As a commander for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Gibbs and his team solve crimes committed against Navy personnel. But, before he played this American hero, Harmon was already a real-life hero.
On January 3, 1996, a car with two teenage boys crashed near Harmon’s house in Brentwood, Los Angeles. The driver was able to get out, but the other boy was trapped. The boys were found by actress Dawber, who played “Mindy” in the series Mork & Mindy. The car was upside down and on fire. She wasn’t able to open the door and called for her husband, Harmon, to bring a sledgehammer. Harmon brought a sledgehammer from his home, breaking a car window and freeing the 16-year-old, named Colin Specht.
Specht later said, “He tugged me, because I was still upside down with the seat belt in, and he ripped me out of the car.” The boy was on fire when pulled from the car, and Harmon and others smothered the fire out.
Looking back at the car rescue
Specht, now a wellness coach in Los Angeles, shares the story on his website. He spent several months in the hospital recovering from a collapsed lung, broken bones, and burns.
In an interview with CBS News, Specht said, “People always say, like, ‘Oh, is he your angel?’ I’m like, ‘Mark Harmon is not an angel. He’s more.’ Because an angel has no sense of mortality. I mean, this man had a wife and kids. It wasn’t just a good guy. It was somebody’s husband and somebody’s father. And maybe that’s what helped guide him to it ’cause he was like, [He’s] somebody’s son. And he went in there and just pulled me out.”
Harmon is humble about his heroic actions, giving credit to his wife in interviews for getting to the scene first and suggesting the sledgehammer.
Other celebrities who have rescued people
Harmon isn’t the only celebrity who has rescued people from car accidents. Jamie Foxx and Vin Diesel have also been heroes during traumatic incidents. In January 2016, as CNN reported, a man was speeding in his Toyota Tacoma when he lost control, hit a drainage ditch, and rolled over multiple times. The driver crashed his pickup truck outside Foxx’s home in Moorpark, California, and the truck burst into flames. Foxx called 911 and helped the man, who was burned. Foxx along with an off-duty EMT cut the driver’s seat belt and pulled him from the truck. The driver suffered injuries and was later arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
In 2002, Diesel saved a family from a burning car in Hollywood. WhatCulture and People reported that Diesel had been riding his motorcycle when he saw a car accident. The driver lost control on the Hollywood Freeway. The car rolled several times before it stopped and caught on fire. Diesel hurried over to pull two small children from the backseat and help the driver to safety.
These impressive actors are ones we can respect for their heroic off-screen actions.