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Patient Care

Ill. Ambulance Crashes and Catches Fire, Leaving Three Dead

Chicago Tribune

Apr. 2—A Bellwood man had just left a dialysis center and was being driven home in an ambulance Saturday when it suddenly careened into a building, killing the patient, the driver and a third man who has not yet been identified, officials said.

Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey said James Wesley, 51, of Chicago was driving the ambulance when for an unknown reason he lost control and ran into the G.J. Nikolas building near 28th Avenue and Washington Boulevard in Bellwood. The Cook County medical examiner's office confirmed there were at least two deaths in a Bellwood crash and identified Wesley but not the second man.

The crash was just down the street from Bellwood's Village Hall and Fire Department, the mayor said. The ambulance caught fire, and Harvey said it seemed like the firefighters were there immediately, extinguishing the blaze and stopping things from getting much worse, he said.

"We're less than a block away, which was fortunate for us, and we were able to extricate the men from the ambulance," he said.

Two men were sent to Loyola Hospital and the patient was sent to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Wesley, the driver, also was pronounced dead at Loyola Hospital.

Harvey said it's still not clear whether the third man in the ambulance worked for the private ambulance company and if so, in what capacity. The man, whose name has not been released, was in critical condition for hours after the crash and died about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Harvey said.

Harvey said the village deferred to the Illinois State Police, who arrived and attempted to reconstruct the events of the crash. However, Harvey said, an autopsy may provide the most answers.

"Just to see if there was anything medical going on with him," Harvey said, explaining he doesn't expect drugs or alcohol will have been factors. "There's no evidence of anything like that."

Harvey said he can't ever remember anything like this happening before, particularly with an ambulance and given how many people died.

"Our detectives are still aggressively working the case," he said.

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