CHICAGO (CBS) — When a crash that set off a raging inferno on the Stevenson, Anastacio Morales’ friends were trapped, but he didn’t run from it. He ran to it.
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His decision saved lives but not all.
One of the people inside never made it home.
One passenger is still recovering from burns at Stroger Hospital.
Morales was in the passenger seat of the burning car. His friends Jamie Poulos and Alex Kariott were in the back.
“We were out celebrating my friend Jamie’s 23rd birthday,” Morales said.
Their Uber from the city to Berwyn was hit from behind on the Stevenson just before 3:30 a.m.
“They rear-ended us, and they hit us so hard that the car I was in ended up spinning,” Morales said.
The driver of the other car was just 22 years old.
“In a state of panic, I didn’t know what to do, but I ran back to the car,” Morales said. “I couldn’t wait. The flames were growing.”
Morales got out safely and went towards that fiery car, first rescuing Kariott.READ MORE: 1,250 New COVID-19 Cases In Indiana Thursday
“By this time my friend Alex is already on fire,” he said. “She’s already engulfed in flames. So I have to reach in and pull her from the back seat to the front of the car and out through the passenger side.”
The 23-year-old was able to get the Uber driver out through the haze and heat.
He tried to pull his best friend Poulos out.
“She was unresponsive. She wasn’t screaming. She wasn’t moving or anything. Her legs were pinned,” Morales said.
Poulos died. She was 23.
“The flames were too much,” Morales said. “My efforts weren’t enough, and I couldn’t get her out of the car.”
Poulos’ mother is thankful Morales went back for her daughter.
“I told him I don’t want him to feel bad because he tried, and he was a good friend to her,” Andrea Poulos said.
“I did try my best,” he said. “And I didn’t abandon her daughter in her last moments.”
The driver of the other car has not been arrested, and no charges have been filed.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Illinois: New Coronavirus Cases Down Over The Past Week, But Hospitalizations Still Climbing
Poulos’ family started a fundraiser for her funeral arrangements.