URBANA – Members of the John Minor family were on their way to a pumpkin-carving party Saturday night when a crash outside rocked their Urbana neighborhood.
Chris Guest was in his bedroom, also getting ready to go to a party, when he heard the crash. He raced outside to a horrifying sight – a van in flames and a man on fire in his front yard.
An Urbana police officer said the subsequent actions of Lynda Minor, Guest and other neighbors on Burkwood Court West saved the life of at least one of the three men in the van, driver Patrick Kelly, a 38-year-old Champaign resident who was trapped in the burning vehicle.
Lynda Minor said she and her husband were loading their car to go to the party about 7 p.m. She was inside getting food to take and her husband was outside when the van careened down their cul-de-sac and slammed into a tree.
"He yelled, 'Call 911' so I did but then I saw a person on fire running so I ran out after him telling him to stop, drop and roll," Minor said. "I got him down and kept yelling to him. I had an oven mitt on my hand and I tried to put out the fire on his head. He was stunned, trying to get to the vehicle. But it was burning."
Guest raced out with wet towels.
"The boy said his friends were in the car," Guest said. "I ran toward the van and there was another guy laying on the ground. It looked like he had a broken pelvis and a broken leg, like he'd been thrown. Two neighbors were trying to get the driver out but he was trapped by the seat belt. I had a pocket knife so I reached in and cut it and we took him out through the window."
He said they all fell back away from the car and seconds later, the gas tank blew.
Minor said the rescuers included neighbors Robert Cox and Tony Onyango. Guest said police and fire officials were arriving at the scene when the tank blew, setting a large tree in the neighborhood on fire.
While the three men were getting the other two victims a safe distance from the burning vehicle, Minor stayed with the burned boy, a 16-year-old who told her his name was Lee. He was treated at Carle Foundation Hospital, then airlifted to Springfield Memorial Hospital's burn unit.
The second passenger, who was 19, was taken to Carle. Urbana police did not release his name. Kelly was taken to Provena Covenant Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Minor said the 16-year-old victim asked her to call his mother and she used her cellphone to contact the woman to tell her her son had been in an accident.
"At some point, an officer said he was concerned about safety and I realized I had young kids in the house with my husband so I came to make sure they were all OK," she said. "When I came back out, the fire department was putting out the fire."
Guest, a medical and doctoral student at the University of Illinois, said the burned boy was going into shock but was coherent. He said the driver would have died when the gas tank blew up if the neighbors hadn't worked together to get him out.
"I've never been involved in anything remotely like that before," Guest said.
Urbana police said Kelly, who listed an address in the 2700 block of Alton Drive of Champaign, was traveling at high speed when the accident occurred. He was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The accident remains under investigation.
They also arrested 23-year-old Curtis Bibb at the scene. According to reports, Bibb, a relative of one of the victims, came to the scene and refused to cooperate and attacked an officer who was trying to secure the accident scene.
Bibb, whose address was listed in the 1400 block of West Anthony Drive, Champaign, faces preliminary charges of aggravated battery and resisting and obstructing an officer.
Minor said she's had concerns about traffic in the southeast Urbana neighborhood before.
"We get traffic here that thinks the road goes through and it doesn't," she said. "They drive fast, and I have flagged drivers down in the past to remind them there are young children in this neighborhood. "
She said the neighborhood was busier than usual Sunday.
"We've had relatives of the victims coming by so we can tell them what happened," Minor said. "And a police officer called to check up on me."