'They were all screaming there was someone inside the car'

BELLEVUE, Wash. - They're sworn to "serve and protect" - and often that means putting their life on the line.

That's exactly what one Bellevue police officer did after a tragic crash just over a week ago.

The dangerous nighttime sight lit up the Bellevue sky on Sept. 12 as terrified drivers found themselves alongside a freeway fireball.

It was a horrifying sight for drivers - a call of duty for a professional.

When Bellevue police officer Andrew Popochock got the call he headed down 8th Street to Interstate 405. That's when he saw the wreck, which investigators say happened when suspect Samuel Sampson slammed into a BMW at high speed. Seconds later, the BMW burst into flames.

"Initially I didn't know what was going on," says Popochock. "Our dispatch center basically said there was an accident somewhere."

But when he arrived at the scene, he quickly sized up the situation.

"Immediately when I got out, there were citizens that were stopped on the freeway as well. And they were all screaming there was someone inside the car," says Popochock.

Inside the cage of melted metal was 22-year-old Ian Beckford. He didn't have much of a chance to survive, but that didn't stop Popochock from braving the flames to attempt a rescue.

"I went into the vehicle itself, and I began grabbing the driver, trying to get him out of the vehicle," he says.

But the heat proved too much. Popochock pulled back. Then, with the help of fellow officers, he went in again and again.

We often hear stories of miraculous rescues, and Popochock says he wishes this was one of those stories.

"You know anything else I could have done, I promise you, I would have done at the time," he says.

Beckford died at the scene. When it was too late for him, Popochock turned to those he could help. He triaged several other injured drivers until medics finally arrived.

Not the actions of a hero, he'd say, but those of a man with a sworn duty.

Police believe Samuel Sampson may have been high on meth when he caused the crash. He survived and is now behind bars at the King County Jail facing a vehicular homicide charge.