Two Barnegat police officers were injured when they rescued an elderly motorist from his burning car after it crashed on Route 72 near the Burlington County line.

Barnegat police tell the Asbury Park Press that the driver, 86-year-old Angelo Pereira of Waretown, was hospitalized in critical condition after Friday night’s accident. He injured his ribs and shoulders and had
severe burns on both arms, but further details on his condition were not disclosed.

Pereira was westbound on Route 72 when he apparently had a “medical episode” and left the roadway around 10:30 p.m. His car continued onward for about seven miles before it crashed into some trees and burst into flames.

Three Barnegat officers — Nicholas Venuto, Andrew Parsley and George Martin — soon responded but couldn’t open the door of Pereira’s car, so they instead broke the driver’s side window. They then worked to free the injured man, who was trapped in the vehicle and clutching the steering wheel, which he refused to release.

The officers, though, were soon able to free Pereira, who was flown to a hospital. Venuto and Martin were also taken to hospitals, while Parsley escaped injury.

Venuto, who suffered smoke inhalation, and Martin, who had second-degree burns to his right arm, were both treated and released by early Saturday, authorities said.

It’s the second time Barnegat police officers have rushed into a car on fire to make a rescue.  In February patrolmen Michael Diblasi and Lauren Keilitz  rescued a man from inside his car that crashed into a home on Biscayne Drive.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)