Man dressed as Santa rescues driver from burning vehicle

DALLAS Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:53pm EST

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DALLAS (Reuters) - A former volunteer firefighter in a Santa suit grabbed a man from a burning vehicle and then directed traffic around a two-vehicle traffic accident this week in the Dallas area, the Santa-clad man said on Wednesday.

Brad Luddeke received worldwide attention after photos shot by passersby of him dressed as Santa directing traffic were sent to local media outlets.

One of Luddeke's annual traditions is to dress up as Santa and deliver gifts and toys collected for families being helped by employees of a manufacturing firm where he works.

On the way back to the office from a gift run on Tuesday, Luddeke, 52, was stopped at a traffic light in the Dallas suburb of Coppell when an accident occurred next to him, he said.

Luddeke sprang into action. He helped the driver in one of the wrecked vehicles get out safely, then turned to assist the driver in the other vehicle, he said. No other people were in either vehicle.

When he turned around, he saw that the first victim had returned to his truck to remove some Christmas gifts. Luddeke saw the vehicle had caught fire and grabbed the man just before the truck exploded, he told Reuters.

Luddeke then directed traffic around the accident site until police and firefighters arrived.

No one was injured, said police in Coppell.

"I really just did what anyone would do in that situation," Luddeke said. "I just happened to be wearing a Santa suit."

Those close to Luddeke aren't surprised that he would step in to help.

"Brad is just so good-natured and helpful," his mother-in-law, Janice Ferguson, told Reuters. "He is so very, very kind-hearted."

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)

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