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Illinois man pulls baby out of burning vehicle, saves her life

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An Illinois man said he knew he had to do something when he heard a woman outside a burning car screaming for her baby.

That man, Josh Railey, was just leaving his birthday dinner with his girlfriend Friday night when he saw the silver sedan on fire right across from the street from Northwoods Mall in Peoria.

“Just happened to see a car on fire and it was dripping gasoline and filled with smoke,” Railey said.

Josh said he saw two guys get out of the car and then a woman kicked open the back door.

“Eventually the back door kicks open. This woman kind of falls out, some guy drags her away and she starts screaming about her baby, so I ran up to the car,” Railey said.

Without being able to really see anything, Josh noticed the airbags were deployed so he couldn’t feel around the car. He slashed the airbags and then found the little baby girl.

“I cut the airbag open, you can’t really see in the car because there’s so much smoke. I checked the first seat, the second seat, and I didn’t feel anything. Somehow the baby got wedged between the driver seat and the passenger seat. I took a final swoop and I found her. I took off and then 30 seconds, a minute later I look back and the whole car was engulfed in flames,” Railey said.

Railey said everything happened in a matter of two to three minutes.

Peoria Police and firefighters showed up shortly after. Battalion Chief Nate Rice’s crew was first on the scene. He says if it wasn’t for Josh, the baby could have died.

“We certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt, but that might be their nature to make that choice to possibly save a life or help another person,” Rice said.

“Had it not been for the individuals that stopped and helped these patients, it could have been a much worse situation,” Rice added.

Rice said his crew, along with medics from Advanced Medical Transport, cared for both the woman and the child before taking them to the hospital. They also extinguished the car fire.

The condition of all four passengers is currently unknown according to Battalion Chief Rice. But he says no one suffered life-threatening injuries. One woman suffered an unspecified injury to one of her legs.

The crash happened around 8:30 p.m. last Friday night. Rice says the initial call was a vehicle accident with a car on fire and victims possibly trapped in the car.

“When we got there, the vehicle was somewhat on a median on Scenic just 10 feet off of War Memorial. It looked like it had gone up on that median and from the reports I got, it started on fire fairly quickly after the accident happened. By the time we got there, it was fully engulfed in flames,” Rice said.

Rice said the Westbound lanes of War Memorial had to be shut down for multiple hours after the crash. On Thursday, the scene near Northwoods Mall was still charred from the fire.

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