Flames licked the crumpled engine of the sport utility vehicle as Alex Mitchell ran over to aid the crash victim.
He saw the driver's door on the ground, but no driver.
"I was like, 'Is anybody there? Can anybody hear me?' " Mitchell, 37, recalled Friday of the 2 a.m. crash on the Long Island Expressway in Brentwood.
"Then I saw a hand waving," he said. "He was lying down by the running board, with his left foot stuck underneath."
The Ozone Park man was hailed by Suffolk police as the Good Samaritan who rescued the driver moments before the Chevy TrailBlazer was swallowed by fire.
John Boisseau, 37, of Sound Beach, was treated and released from Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he was charged with driving while intoxicated. He could not be reached for comment.
Police said Boisseau was eastbound on the LIE when he lost control near Exit 55.
Mitchell said he was working, driving a gasoline tanker, when he saw the Chevy veer across the lanes, nearly colliding with another vehicle before cutting in front of his truck.
The SUV suddenly drove off the highway, hitting a tree so hard the rear end flipped up, he said.
Mitchell pulled over, called 911 and ran to the scene. With his right hand clamping his cellphone to an ear, he used his left arm to pull the man out of the wreckage.
"If he suffered a little damage on his left foot, he could live with it," Mitchell said. "As long as he was alive."
Seconds after the rescue, two tires on the burning SUV exploded, Mitchell recalled.
As news of the rescue spread, Mitchell said he got kudos and some good-natured ribbing from co-workers at Island Transportation Corp. in West Babylon.
His mother and sister in Florida called after they were alerted by a friend.
"My son's a hero!" his mother exclaimed.
Mitchell said he wasn't scared until immediately afterward -- when he was leading the injured man to safety and the tires blew.
"I'm glad I had the courage to go out there and help someone," he said. "Now I'm like, 'What the heck!' "