Metro-East News

Witnesses help free crash victims from car that hit tree and caught fire

An eyewitness who saw a car run off a Belleville road, hit a tree and then catch fire said the driver and passenger are lucky to be alive.

Lauren Yorkley was driving home from her job as a hospice employee on Friday afternoon when she saw the accident, near the intersection of Frank Scott Parkway and Illinois 161. The 22-year-old O’Fallon resident said she pulled over and helped free a 14-year-old passenger who was trapped in the car.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Yorkley said.

I felt so sorry for the kid. He started screaming for his grandpa’s name. I grabbed him and helped him.

Lauren Yorkley, eyewitness and O’Fallon resident

Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour said firefighters were called to the scene, near the Gettysburg Road apartments off Frank Scott Parkway, at about 3 p.m. Pour said the car was traveling westbound on Frank Scott Parkway and then suddenly veered into the eastbound lane before hitting a tree and then catching fire.

“They were laying on the ground conscious, and the fire was extinguished quickly,” Pour said. “We don’t know why the car left the roadway.”

Yorkley said she, another eyewitness and a police officer helped free the man and the boy, who was stuck in the car. She said the man was the boy’s grandfather, and the boy was hysterical and screaming when she arrived.

“I felt so sorry for the kid,” she said. “He started screaming for his grandpa’s name. I grabbed him and helped him.”

She said that seconds after freeing the boy, the car caught fire.

“The car started smoking and everybody ran away and got scared,” she said. “We didn’t know if it was going to blow up.”

Both crash victims were transported to area hospitals. Their conditions were not available.