Police Officer Wayne Rhatigan was the hero of New York on Sunday as he sounded the alert about a car bomb in Times Square and managed to clear the area and help have the bomb defused.

Rhatigan, a member of the police’s Emerald Society and a mounted policeman,was called by a t-shirt vendor who saw smoke coming from the back of the car in Times Square.

Rhatigan approached the car, saw the smoke, and immediately reacted.

"I did a lap around the vehicle. The inside was smoking," Rhatigan told the Daily News on Saturday night. "I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second."

He grabbed two rookie female cops who were patrolling the area. Together, they managed to get hundreds of people away from the smoking car and to alert the bomb squad.

The Fire Department and bomb squad rushed to the scene.

The car was a running SUV packed with three propane tanks, two red 5-gallon plastic jugs of gasoline, a clock, electrical components and a canister of gunpowder, police said.

"We are very lucky," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at an early morning press conference.

"Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers we avoided what could have been a very deadly event."

The two rookie cops reported seeing a man running away from the scene as they approached the car.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said cops were checking that a person was seen running away from the car.

"It looks as if the perp was trying to light it up, and was interrupted by the cops, panicked and took off," a law enforcement source told the Daily News.

"It looked like someone tried to detonate it and we got to it in time.

"This is a big deal. It has the makings of a real car bomb."

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