Emergency response units do the best they can and save countless lives every day. But sometimes the amount of time between the moment of the incident and resulting tragedy is practically non-existent. Even blaring sirens rushing through red lights as cars scramble out of the way can prove to be too little too late.
On a slick, snowy day in February 2015, 17-year-old Erik DePillars lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a tree in Chicago, Illinois. The teenage boy was trapped in his car, and as smoke started to pour from the engine, he started to drift in and out of consciousness.
Emergency services were on the way, but the smoke was intensifying quickly and onlookers knew there wasn’t much time. Had it not been for the heroic efforts of several drivers who were at the scene, he’d likely have perished in a gulf of flames.
“The car just engulfed in flames,” said one of the men who helped pull the teen to safety.
Firefighting crews arrived on the scene just as the car was starting to burn up. “Seconds later, if we didn’t get him out of there, this would have been a tragedy,” one of the good Samaritans told CBS New York reporters. It was truly a team effort, and a number of drivers pulled over and rushed to the scene to lend a hand.
The heat coming from the vehicle made the rescue difficult for the average person. They weren’t equipped with gloves or tools to help combat the quickly rising temperature, and the race against time had everyone’s heart pounding in their chest.
It took a team of a half-dozen or so to free DePillars from the car. Four men, each holding him by a leg or arm, lifted his body and carried him to safety a few feet away from the vehicle.
“We all came together, and somehow we got that individual out of that car,” said another man who pulled over to lend a hand.
What was most encouraging was the number of people who pulled over to help. “They say, you know, that people don’t care. But a lot of people do care. A lot of people stopped and a lot of people helped,” said another good Samaritan who risked his life to save DePillars.
Ambulances, fire trucks, and police officers all arrived on the scene moments after DePillars was pulled to safety and thanked the everyday citizens for their bravery. The teenager was rushed to the hospital where he was expected to make a full recovery.