Suburban Hero: Bensenville musician honored for saving 2 from burning car

  • DuPage County Sheriff Jim Mendrick says Armando Rodriguez is a worthy recipient of the office's first Lifesaving Award bestowed on a civilian.

      DuPage County Sheriff Jim Mendrick says Armando Rodriguez is a worthy recipient of the office's first Lifesaving Award bestowed on a civilian. Justin Kmitch | Staff Photographer

  • Bensenville resident Armando Rodriguez said he believes he acted as anyone else would have when he encountered a fiery accident scene near Bensenville and rescued the car's two occupants.

      Bensenville resident Armando Rodriguez said he believes he acted as anyone else would have when he encountered a fiery accident scene near Bensenville and rescued the car's two occupants. Justin Kmitch | Staff Photographer

  • Detective Sammy Martinez, left, nominated Armando Rodriguez for the sheriff's Lifesaving Award after meeting him and hearing his story of rescuing a wrong-way driver and his passenger from a fiery crash. Sheriff Jim Mendrick, right, said Rodriguez is a worthy recipient.

      Detective Sammy Martinez, left, nominated Armando Rodriguez for the sheriff's Lifesaving Award after meeting him and hearing his story of rescuing a wrong-way driver and his passenger from a fiery crash. Sheriff Jim Mendrick, right, said Rodriguez is a worthy recipient. Justin Kmitch | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/30/2019 9:04 AM

Armando Rodriguez is reorganizing his trophy case.

The Bensenville musician, known for his work in the Mexican Duranguense band AK-7, is going to have to shift his Latin Grammy and multiple gold and platinum albums to make room for the Lifesaving Award he received Friday from DuPage County Sheriff Jim Mendrick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rodriguez and his wife were returning home from a late-night stop at Menards around 9 p.m. May 5, traveling north on Route 83 near Frontage Road, when they came upon a two-car head-on collision that had just occurred in the unincorporated area near Bensenville.

As they approached, no one else was stopping to help. Rodriguez, 43, said he thought he saw children's clothes in the rear seat of the small Chevy Trax that police say was driving the wrong way on Route 83.

"The car started smoking and I saw the clothes. I've got kids, so instinct kicked in and I had to get them out," Rodriguez said. "I got to the car and I could see the driver was out of it and unable to do anything. And the doors were locked, so I tried kicking the window. Eventually I just used my elbow to break the glass and free the man."

After removing the driver, Roman Briseno-Guzman, 32, of Berwyn, he returned for the unconscious passenger and rescued him before the flames grew out of control.

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The sheriff's Lifesaving Award traditionally is reserved for deputies acting heroically, but Mendrick said Rodriguez was a worthy recipient and the first civilian to be so honored.

"He got burned. He broke a window with his elbow and he dragged two people from a burning car," Mendrick said. "That is to be commended. (Rodriguez) is a hero."

Rodriguez called the award "more special than the Grammy" that his group won in 2007, but said he was just doing what his parents taught him.

"I did what I could and I think anyone would do it. And I would do it for any of you guys, too," he told several deputies in attendance. "Your parents teach you and you try to be your best and help other people and be nice to everybody else. That's what I was doing."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Detective Sammy Martinez, who nominated Rodriquez after learning the details of the crash, said Rodriguez stands out because he ran to action.

"Now everyone just watches and takes video to post on Instagram," Martinez said. "But Armando chose to help."

The driver of the car struck by the Chevy escaped without serious injuries. Sheriff's officials did not know the medical status of the two men saved by Rodriguez, but Briseno-Guzman is being held on $150,000 bond and faces six counts of aggravated DUI.

• Do you know any Suburban Heroes? Share your story at heroes@dailyherald.com.

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