Constables Jian Zhang and Chris Stribopoulos were on patrol in different vehicles, early on the morning of December 30, 2011, when the call came in that there was a personal injury accident at the corner of Carlaw & Dundas Sts. E.
“While you are aware it’s a collision, you are unaware of the severity until you get on the scene,” said Zhang, who arrived just ahead of Stribopoulos.
When he arrived, he found a taxi on fire as Toronto Fire Services worked to extinguish the flames. A van had sped through a red light and struck the cab, before fleeing the area, leaving the taxi driver trapped in his car.
“There was heavy smoke and the cab driver appeared to be unconscious,” recalled Zhang.
In an attempt to free the injured driver, Zhang smashed the driver’s side window with his baton and, with the assistance of Stribopoulos, pulled the victim from the vehicle.
“With the fire intensifying and the possibility of an explosion imminent, we needed to get him out of there as quickly as possible because he was pinned inside,” said Stribopoulos.
After being pulled to safety by the heroic officers, the driver was taken to hospital.
Had it not been for the selfless and brave actions of the 55 Division officers, the victim could have died in the burning vehicle.
Zhang and Stribopoulos were recently recognized with Medals of Bravery by Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
“I was quite surprised and honoured by the recognition,” said Zhang. “I was just doing my duty and it’s something I will do again. It’s part of the job.”
Stribopoulos, who joined the Service eight years ago, was humbled by the attention.
“It made me feel pretty special,” he pointed out. “This is something that doesn’t happen often.”
Created in 1972, the Medal of Bravery recognizes individuals who risk their lives in an attempt to save others.
Both officers were previously recognized with the Ontario Medal for Police Bravery.