WLS-Ch. 7 reporter Evelyn Holmes and photographer John Truitt are accustomed to documenting the news, not participating in the stories.But when the pair drove up to a fiery crash on Lake Shore Drive on Saturday, they followed their instincts to help before reporting.”We’re all human first,” Holmes said.Holmes and Truitt were on their way to cover a mayoral campaign event shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday when they saw about four people trying to rescue a motorist trapped inside a wrecked vehicle in the southbound lanes near McCormick Place. Some of the rescuers were throwing snow and dirt onto flames beginning to flicker.Truitt pulled the news van to the side of the road, grabbed a fire extinguisher from the van and doused the fire with foam, then handed it to Holmes to continue spraying so he could assist the others with rescue efforts.”When we got there, I didn’t even think of the camera, or where I worked, it was just trying to get him out of the car,” Truitt said. “That was super-intense. (The others) were in a blind panic. You could feel it in the air.”When the flames subsided and others, including an off-duty firefighter arrived, Truitt decided it was OK to grab his camera to capture the remainder of the rescue. The off-duty firefighter and others smashed the rear window of the vehicle, cut the driver’s seat belt and lifted out the victim moments before the flames reignited, engulfing the front of the vehicle.”It was people working in concert with each other, it was amazing,” Truitt said.
The driver in the single-vehicle crash, 17-year-old Mount Carmel High School student Erik DePillars, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was being treated Sunday for lung, head and leg injuries, his father, Norman, said. Chicago police said the teen lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree in the median.”I’m very, very grateful to everyone and their efforts to help my son,” Norman DePillars said.Holmes said the situation was an example of a “line that sometimes gets blurred” and she tried to balance the desire to help with the eventual decision to cover the rescue as a news story.”There are going to be times when you sit there and call the fire department, but we didn’t want to watch a kid burn to death, and we wanted to do right by him and worry about the rest later,” Holmes said. “It’s a judgment call. I think it was the right thing to do.”[email protected] @pmocwriter