Boy rescued from burning SUV recovering

September 16, 2009 4:58:15 AM PDT
A 5-year-old boy, who was rescued from a burning SUV two months ago, has healed enough to go home from the hospital. The recovery of David "DJ" Harper is good medicine for those who risked their lives to save his.

DJ Harper spent his fifth birthday in the hospital. Doctors say he is going home ahead of schedule.

In July, the Harper family was driving down a Milwaukee street when their SUV overturned and burst into flames. The accident and the rush to rescue DJ were captured on home videotape.

Flames were shooting out the SUV as people ran toward the burning vehicle, hoping to save a young boy trapped in his car seat. That was two months ago. On Tuesday, a happy DJ left a Milwaukee-area hospital. It's a milestone the 5-year-old's parents say is the greatest thing ever.

"This could have been a lot worse. I could have lost my son. Fortunately for all the people that there were that day, I have my son here to see him smile and play with his sister," said Angela Baldessari.

Sitting in a red wagon wearing a fire hat, DJ says besides playing with his sister, he can't wait to ride in a fire truck. The 5-year-old has developed an obsession with firefighting, and for good reason. Two of the people who pulled him from the burning SUV were brothers and off-duty firefighters.

"A lot of people have been calling Joe and I heroes. We were there doing what we have been trained to do. We saved a life," said John Rechlitz.

DJ spent weeks in critical condition with multiple burns. His ears were burned off in the accident, and he has undergone several skin grafts. Doctors credit his resilience for a remarkable recovery. DJ's father said he still can't believe his son is going home.

"This is amazing. I am so happy to have my son back, to hold him and smell him and be with him," said Chris Harper.

The Harper family is from Tennessee. But after spending the past two months in Milwaukee, the Harpers have decided to stay and make their home in Wisconsin. Chris Harper says so many people helped them, they want the opportunity to give back to the people of Milwaukee.


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