UPDATE: Boy Saved from Burning SUV

By: Chris Papst Email
By: Chris Papst Email

UPDATED Tuesday, September 15, 2009 --- 12:33 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A young boy who was pulled from a burning SUV by two off-duty firefighters was released from a Milwaukee area hospital Tuesday, two months after the dramatic rescue, which was caught on videotape.

David "DJ" Harper suffered extensive burns in the ordeal and lost both ears. With his head in bandages, the rambunctious 5-year-old fidgeted in a red wagon while his parents thanked the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff who helped with his recovery.

The boy was trapped in the SUV after it crashed into a tree and burst into flames. Bystanders helped his mother and 2-year-old sibling out of the burning vehicle.

His father, James "Chris" Harper says the two firefighters who rescued his son, brothers John and Joel Rechlitz, have become close family friends. The Harpers, from Tennessee, say they're looking for a house in the Milwaukee area.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
_______________________________________

Updated Tuesday, July 21, 2009 --- 1:28 p.m.

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (AP) -- The father of a 4-year-old boy saved from a burning SUV in Milwaukee says his son was surrounded by angels.

James "Chris" Harper said Tuesday words can't express his gratitude to off-duty firefighters Joel and John Rechlitz and others.

Pediatric surgeon David Gourlay (GUR'-lay) says 4-year-old D.J. Harper is in serious but stable condition with burns over 20 percent of his body. He says many of the burns are deep and are on the scalp, face and upper body.

Harper's mother, 32-year-old Angela Baldessari of Kingsport, Tenn., was driving Sunday when her SUV hit a tree and burst into flames.

She and her 2-year-old daughter were pulled out but rescue workers had to cut the boy's car-seat restraints to save him.

The Rechlitz brothers suffered burns on their hands and forearms.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

________________________________________________________

Updated Tuesday, July 21, 2009 --- 10:10 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Milwaukee police have identified the woman and her two children saved from a burning SUV in a dramatic rescue caught on video.

Police say 32-year-old Angela Baldessari of Kingsport, Tenn. was driving the SUV when it hit a tree and burst into flames Sunday in Milwaukee.

Videotape shows a group surrounding the burning vehicle.

Baldessari had already handed her 2-year-old daughter, Beverly Harper, out to bystanders through the top of the vehicle. She escaped through the windshield after bystanders smashed it open.

Two off-duty firefighters, a police lieutenant and neighbors helped rescue 4-year-old David Harper, who was badly burned.

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin spokeswoman Stephanie Hungerford said he was in critical condition Tuesday morning.

Police are still investigating the circumstances leading to the crash.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_____________________________________________________

UPDATED Monday, July 20, 2009 --- 2:30 p.m..

"There's a baby in there!" yells a man who's standing next to the SUV as it burns.

The scene is horrific. Yet heroic.

Sunday afternoon, an SUV traveling through south Milwaukee hits a tree, rolls onto its side and bursts into flames. A family from Tennessee is trapped inside.

Dramatic video, shot by a bystander, shows witnesses sprinting to the car and frantically pound the windshield with metal pipes to get at the family. A mother and her young daughter are quickly rescued. But, a four-year-old boy remained inside as the flames spread.

"The child was inside there screaming," remembered Joel Rechlitz.

Two off duty firemen, brothers John and Joel Rechlitz, arrive on scene and rush toward the burning car.

"And the child was literally burning in front of me," he continued.

As they reach for the child an off duty policeman grabs two fire extinguishers and fights back the flames. Eventually the boy is freed as a neighbor with a garden hose douses him with water. Soon after the flames engulf the entire vehicle.

"We were going in no matter what," said Lt. Mark Wroblewski. "John and Joel were going in. There was no doubt we were going to get the kids out or get really hurt trying."

"If it wasn't for the citizens who were bashing that window open giving us access to the child it would have been different," stated Joel Rechlitz. "If that lady didn't come through with that garden hose for the burns sustained to that child it would have been much for severe. It was a tremendous team effort. I am proud to be part of Milwaukee. Everyone came together to perform a miracle."

The two firefighters were slightly injured during the rescue, suffering burns to their hands and arms. The mother and two-year-old girl suffered minor injuries.

The four-year-old boy is in critical condition at Children's Hospital, he suffered burns to the upper half of his body. But, he is alive.

__________________________________________________________

UPDATED Monday, July 20, 2009 --- 12:30 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Two Milwaukee firefighters can claim credit for a heroic off-duty rescue.

They were in a crowd that worked to pull a mother and her two young children from a burning SUV yesterday.

Police say the woman had been driving the SUV when it left the street, hit a tree and burst into flames. Video of the rescue shows a group of people surrounding the burning car. One man tried to kick in the windshield, and two others used pipes to break it. The crowd then pulled the woman and her 2-year-old daughter from the flames.

Still trapped inside was the woman's 4-year-old son.

Off-duty firefighter Joel Rechlitz told NBC's "Today" show that it was a "horrific" scene. He says the car was "engulfed in flames," and that all he could see was the face of the child inside.

He and a police officer used fire extinguishers to hold back flames, as his brother John -- also an off-duty firefighter -- reached into the vehicle.

He couldn't find the seat belt release to free the boy, and eventually cut the car seat's restraints.

The 4-year-old is in critical condition with burns to 30 percent of his body.

The Rechlitz brothers were treated for burns to their hands and arms.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

___________________________________________________

Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 --- 11:15 a.m.

From NBC15's News Partner, WITI Fox 6 in Milwaukee:

WITI-TV, MILWAUKEE - Two off-duty Milwaukee firefighters rescue a mother and her two young children from a fire that engulfed their SUV Sunday evening. Video of the dramatic rescue shot by a bystander shows the men using metal pipes to break the windshield, freeing the woman and her daughter. The four-year-old boy was still trapped inside.

It happened Sunday just before 5 p.m., when the vehicle rolled over and struck a tree near the intersection of 22nd & Layton Ave. After striking the tree, the truck became engulfed in flames.

Two off-duty Milwaukee firefighters were on the scene within moments and attempted to rescue the mother and two children inside.. The mother was pulled out and suffered only bumps and bruises. A two-year-old girl was pulled out and also suffered minor injuries. The four-year-old boy is in critical condition at Children's Hospital, he suffered burns to the upper half of his body.

The two Milwaukee firefighters, who are also brothers, were injured while trying to save the four-year-old from the fireball. They were taken to St. Luke's Medical Center for treatment. Both of them suffered burns to their hands and arms.

The mother and two children were visiting the Milwaukee area and are originally from Tennessee.

Note: Photos below provided by WITI Fox 6 in Milwaukee

Click HERE for coverage from WITI Fox 6 in Milwaukee


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
NBC15 615 Forward Drive Madison, Wisconsin 53711 Business: 608-274-1515 Newsroom: 608-274-1500
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 51225332 - nbc15.com/a?a=51225332
Gray Television, Inc.