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Mother, Children Saved From Burning SUV In Milwaukee

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Channel 3000: A mother and her two young children survived a fire that engulfed their SUV when they were pulled from the burning vehicle by off-duty firefighters and bystanders in Milwaukee.

Two off-duty Milwaukee firefighters and an off-duty police officer are being called heroes for helping save the family.

The incident happened after the vehicle crashed into a tree, flipping the SUV, which then caught fire on Sunday afternoon.

People from the neighborhood raced to the burning vehicle. They attempted to save the family, which was visiting from Tennessee. They smashed the windows using sticks and pipes. Videotape of the dramatic rescue shot by a bystander shows two men using metal pipes to break the windshield, freeing the woman and her 2-year-old daughter. Angela Baldessari, 32, of Kingsport, Tenn. was driving the SUV. She handed her 2-year-old daughter, Beverly Harper, out to bystanders through the top of the vehicle. She escaped through the windshield after bystanders smashed it open.

The two firefighters reached the scene and along with the officer, pulled a 4-year-old boy out of the vehicle after cutting his seat belt. They then doused him with a neighbor's garden hose.

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin spokeswoman Stephanie Hungerford said 4-year-old David Harper, who was badly burned, was in critical condition Tuesday morning. The boy has severe burns over 30 percent of his body.

Both firefighters and the officer suffered second- and third-degree burns. The three were honored by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday afternoon. He said it was their bravery and the bravery of the other residents that saved the family.

Firefighter Joel Rechlitz said the rescue was a group effort.

"If it wasn't for the citizens that were bashing that window open that gave us access to the child, things would have been different. If that person didn't come forth with that pocket knife, things would have been different. If that lady didn't come through with that garden hose, the burns sustained to that child would have been much more severe," he said. "It was a tremendous team effort. I'm proud to be part of Milwaukee. People put differences aside, everyone came together to perform a miracle."

Police are still investigating the circumstances leading to the crash.

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