O’FALLON, IL (KTVI) - An elderly Illinois man is recovering from burns over fifty percent of his body after a bizarre lawnmower accident in Shiloh, Illinois, Wednesday. But witnesses and police both believe it might have been even worse if not for the quick action of an Air Force major on the way to work at Scott Air Force Base.
Jim Cote was just transferred to Scott four days ago. He was pulling out of his new apartment complex when he saw the seventy-four year old victim flip the riding mower over. He got out to see if he needed help, and, suddenly, there was fire everywhere.
“Just within a matter of seconds, burst into flames,” he said. “He came running out of the area, basically as you would see in a movie, completely engulfed in flames head to toe.”
Police say they’re still trying to determine how a simple lawnmower accident turned into a ball of flames.
“We’re not sure if the gas cap was removed or somehow fell off,” Shiloh Police Sgt. Kyle Bade said. “The gas turned over and sparked, sparked something and he was on fire.”
Cote is a nurse by trade in the military, and he quickly put his skills to work.
“Ran over across the street. Was trying take the top of my uniform off. Just trying to pat him down. It was pretty difficult at first getting that much of a flame out with my uniform. A lot of other people stopped to help, brought water. A couple other military folks stopped. Within a matter of, seemed like eternity, but in a couple of minutes got the fire out at least.”
Witnesses watched in amazement as the small group of Air Force personnel rushed to help the man.
“I was just hoping he was okay. I saw everybody with waters, and a bunch of our tenants had stopped and were running toward this gentlemen,” Tammy Oliver, the manager of the apartment complex where Cote lives told us. “They are amazing, you just can’t say enough about them. I mean I was truly impressed with how many had stopped, probably late for work, just to help this gentleman in his time of need.”
Police agree, saying the victim may not have survived with the quick intervention of bystanders.
“They stepped to with their training, their abilities came through to the forefront,” Bade said.