Child Burn Victim David Harper Home From Hospital
A five-year-old boy who was pulled from a burning vehicle by two off-duty firefighters returned home from the hospital on Tuesday.
David, “DJ” Harper spent two months in the hospital after his mother’s SUV caught fire with DJ trapped inside.
He suffered severe burns to his scalp that required skin grafts and lost both ears.
“The doctors and staff here have done a wonderful job of getting him ready,” said Chris Harper. “We’ve got years of recovery ahead of us, but this is a big step today.”
The accident occurred as DJ’s motherAngela Baldessariwas driving on W. Layton Ave. near S. 22nd St. The SUV struck a tree and caught fire. The accident report says she hadn’t slept much the night before and thought she’d dozed off while driving. Compounding the problem, police said, Baldessari had forgotten to replace the gas cap after refueling, and gas spilled when the vehicle overturned.
Neighbors rushed to help, smashing the windshield and helping to get Baldessari and DJ’s little sister, Beverly, 2, out of the burning vehicle. Two off-duty Milwaukee firefighters, John andJoel Rechlitz, managed to rescue DJ.
The firefighters have continued to visit and help the family. Now they’re “Uncle John” and “Uncle Joel” to DJ, said his father.
“We’re friends now,” Harper said. “We’ve made a new family bond, a new friend bond.”
“Uncle John” Rechlitz appeared at the news conference, too. “This is the day I’ve been waiting for,” he said.
DJ’s family, originally from Kingsport, Tennessee, was in the area while his father was working at the Waukesha County Fair.
Grateful for the rescue and community support since the crash, they now plan to stay in the Milwaukee area. Tthey hope to move into an apartment, find jobs and a create more normal life.