'Heroes' rescue man from burning car

July 7, 2008 4:40:24 PM PDT
A north suburban family is calling three men 'heroes' after they pulled a Lake Forest man from his burning car. It happened Thursday night when a semi-truck driver allegedly ran a red light in Highland Park, smashing into the victim's car and setting it on fire.

Jeffrey Scheinman was hospitalized Monday with burns over the majority of his body. While his family watched and waited for his recovery, they had a bright spot when they got to meet one of the men responsible for saving the man's life. LaRome Cotton spoke about the rescue Monday.

"You are a hero in our lives. You saved my son as life," Shirley Scheinman, the victim's mother, said as she hugged Cotton.

It seemed to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship as the family of Jeffrey Scheinman thanked Cotton for literally saving their loved one's life.

The 55-year-old business man nearly perished in the early morning hours of July 4.

"He stopped at a red light at 22 and 41, if I recall, and a semi apparently just didn't see the red light and rammed into his car," said the victim's niece, Rachel Lansing.

Scheinman's two-seater burst into flames, trapping him inside. LaRome Cotton was at a station nearby, witnessed the crash and tried to help.

"I tried to get a crow bar and finally found the fire extinguisher and put it out. The fire didn't go out, but all I could do was try to get him out. The car was constantly exploding. I managed to get the door open and pulled him out," Cotton said.

Scheinman was eventually air lifted to a hospital's burn unit, where he remained Friday.

Cotton remained humbled and gracious about his deed and thanking God.

"LaRome carries this burden on his back of all the things happening in the world. He is a really concerned person," said fiancee Andrea Barnes.

Along with the accolades, one of Jeffrey Scheinman's twin sons offered LaRome Cotton evidence of his heroism, the charred emblem from his father's car.

"About six weeks ago, we lost our grandfather, his father, which was a huge blow. That was tough, but this is just like insane," Scott Scheinman said.

Out of the tragedy, two families became one, and LaRome's actions proved to family that angels exist.

Another one of the rescuers was visiting the family in the hospital Friday.

As for the accident, Highland Park police were still investigating and had yet to say whether alcohol or speed was a factor in the accident.


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