Sgt. risks life, saves fire victim

By M. Michelle Byrne

A DeKalb police officer ignored witnesses who said no one was in a burning car, and saved a man’s life.

Valentino Robles, 28, 710 N. Fourth St., fell asleep in his car at 3:17 a.m. Saturday while it was warming up near Tenth Street and State Street, DeKalb Police Chief Joe Maciejewski said. Robles had been out with friends just before he got into the car, he said. The car caught on fire, but witnesses who gathered around the car after it was in flames did not know there was anyone in the car, Maciejewski said.

Sgt. Craig Sell responded to the call from a DeKalb man on North Tenth Street, Maciejewski said. The fire was near the front tires of the car, he said. The interior of the car was filled with smoke, making it impossible to see if anyone was in the car, he said.

Sell reported the car door was either locked or jammed; he could not open it, Maciejewski said. Sell broke the driver’s side window with his nightstick, and began to probe the smoke filled car looking for a victim, he said.

Sell found Robles in the car, and pulled him from the burning car, Maciejewski said.

Sell suffered burns to his ear, hair and some of his clothes, which were burnt from melting plastic from the car, Maciejewski said. Robles was taken to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, treated and released.

obles said, “I don’t remember anything about the accident. I fell asleep in the car, but I don’t know who took me out. All I remember was waking up in the hospital.” Robles said he felt fine Monday, and did not have any injuries except smoke inhalation, which he was treated for Saturday.

Maciejewski said Monday he planned to give Sell an award for his courage and bravery. “(Despite) the heat of the car and the possibility of it exploding, the officer risked his life for the occupant of the car,” he said.

The DeKalb Fire Department estimated the damage to the car at $4,000.