Neighbors, firefighters aid father and son

March 31, 2008 3:46:59 PM PDT
An off-duty firefighter's actions in the city's Frankford section is being labeled nothing short but heroic. Nancy Rivera's impulse when she saw smoke pouring from a home two doors down in the 4700 block of Worth Sreet last evening was to go in and help out. She ran over, kicked in a door, and heard 3-year-old Kevin Wilson Junior crying inside.

"I was trying to crawl to grab him, his hand or his feet. He got scared and he was calling for his dad and his dad was calling for his son," Rivera said.

The toddler's 43-year-old father Kevin Wilson Senior was trapped upstairs. Other neighbors tried to rescue the father and son as the smoke became even thicker.

"It was just billowing out of there, black smoke was coming out," Alan Weiser said.

At that moment, off-duty Philadelphia firefighter Lt. James Babst, 41, drove by on his way to work.

"He just said get out of the way because I was going to go in and he said no let me do this," Babst said.

Firefighter Babst also collapsed inside. He, too, had been overcome by the smoke, but within seconds his fellow firefighters arrived and pulled everyone to safety. Little Kevin's mother told Action News she wants to thank Lieutenant Babst firsthand.

"Angles sent from heaven and when I get a chance I hope I'll be able to thank him personally, me and Kevin Junior," Rhonda Wright said.

"We have the firefighters, the men and women, who put their lives on the line everyday, and this is a shining example of the spirit of what we do," Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. This afternoon, crews boarded up the home. The 3-year-old child and his father are still in the hospital in critical condition suffering from smoke inhalation and burns, but they are alive.

Little Kevin's mother also wanted to thank her neighbors. Because of them, she feels confident her son and his father will survive.

Lieutenant Babst spent several hours in the hospital overnight, but he's working on getting the all clear to return to work.