This Uber Passenger's Ride Was a Most Unusual One

Driver Fritz Sam stopped car to help rescue people from Brooklyn house fire
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
This Uber Passenger's Ride Was a Most Unusual One
An Uber sign is displayed inside a car in Palatine, Ill., on Feb. 10.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

A Brooklyn writer headed to a conference in Vermont this week just barely made her flight, and she has her Uber driver to blame. But Jemimah James Wei is completely OK with the detour, since it came about because the driver, 54-year-old Fritz Sam, stopped to rush into a burning building and help clear people out. Sam tells the Washington Post that he picked Wei up at around 8am at her home for a 10am flight out of LaGuardia, when they passed a brownstone that had flames coming out of a second-story window. "Can we stop and help?" Sam asked his passenger, who replied without hesitation: "Obviously!"

In a Twitter thread detailing what happened, Wei wrote that Sam "LEAPT out of the car and INTO the building while the rest of us screamed at the top of our lungs for people to evacuate." Wei tells the Post that the scene looked "really bad," with glass fragments on the ground and flames "shooting out of the building." No one outside the building seemed to know if anyone else was still inside, so Sam, a dad of two young daughters, made the call to rush inside himself. "It's not my family, but it's someone else's family," he notes. Yelling as he went for everyone to get out, Sam first led a woman at the top of a staircase to safety, even though she initially refused to leave.

"I think she was in shock," he says. Next he helped another man out. Those were apparently the only two people left inside, and six minutes later, firefighters and police arrived and doused the flames. An investigation is ongoing into the cause. Meanwhile, Sam apologized afterward to Wei and asked her, per her tweet thread: "'Hey, do I smell of smoke?' I was like Sir you just saved someone's life????" Wei, who ended up making her flight, calls Sam's actions "so brave," noting, "It wasn't even a calculated decision. ... He ran straight into the fire." As for Sam, he tells NBC New York, "I'm not trying to be silly or even a hero—I just wanted to do the right thing." (More uplifting news stories.)

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