A car exploded moments after a police officer and a bystander pulled a seriously injured man from the burning vehicle.
Counties Manukau police Inspector Dave Glossop is praising the actions of a police constable and a member of the public who pulled the unconscious man from the burning wreck seconds before it exploded.
All three are lucky to be alive, he said.
"They were only metres away from the car, dragging this person away," he said. "We're talking about something, described by the officer, that you really only see in the movies."
Just before 4pm today the car, driven by a 27-year-old, crashed into a paddock on Papakura-Clevedon Rd, in Papakura.
Inspector Glossop said when Constable Jenny Sinclair arrived the driver's side of the car was already on fire and she, together with a man who had stopped and raised the alarm, had to scramble through gorsey fields to reach the vehicle.
The man in the car was badly injured and lapsing in and out of consciousness.
Together they tugged him through the passenger's side of the car to get him out and were dragging him away when the car exploded, Glossop said.
"If they had still been in the car pulling him out we would be having a very different conversation. As it happens, apart from some scratches from the gorse the member of the public and Jenny Sinclair walked away unscathed."
Glossop said police were extremely proud of Sinclair and the good Samaritan, and plans were afoot to formally recognise the man's help.
"If he hadn't have called and stayed around to help we would be having a very different conversation."
He had personally spoken to Sinclair and was very proud of the constable, who had been a serving officer for several years, he said.
"I'm putting words in her mouth but she was saying, 'I feel like I made a difference, I saved someone today'. Better work stories, that's what she said.
"Sometimes you come to work and you grind out the work and other days you save somebody's life."
The driver was taken to hospital in a serious condition and the circumstances of the crash are under investigation.