Hickory Hills banquet hall fire survivors praise police for rescue

May 13, 2013 (HICKORY HILLS, Ill.)

Several south suburban fire departments were called to the scene in Hickory Hills to battle the blaze, which began Sunday in the kitchen of the Camelot Banquet Hall.

Seven events, including Mother's Day gatherings and communions, had to be moved.

Officials say the quick actions of a Hickory Hills police officer helped save the lives of the owners.

Sisters Joanne Naughton and Krys Drozek consider Hickory Hills Police Officer Ryan Bajt a hero. Early Sunday morning, Bajt heard a call about smoke seen at the Camelot Banquet Hall. When he pulled up, flames were shooting from the ceiling.

"I know the owners relatively well," said Bajt. "I know they stay there on Saturday to get ready for morning banquets."

Fortunately, Officer Bajt had a cell phone number for one of the owners. After staying up all night getting ready for morning parties, Drozek and her sister Naughton were taking a nap in the office when Bajt called.

"I advised her the banquet hall was on fire and they needed to get out," said Bajt. "She didn't realize it was so bad. "I made my way to the front entrance, banged on door, and she and her sister made it out."

Within minutes, the hall was fully engulfed in flames.

"If it wasn't for him we wouldn't be here," Drozek said.

A humble officer Bajt says he was just doing his job.

Monday, Drozek and her family returned the banquet call to retrieve any salvageable files. Fully booked with events until 2014, this family-owned business is working to accommodate all its customers.

The sister say it will be at least six months until the banquet hall reopens.

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