Father Recalls Day of Crash and Hopes For Sons Future

PHOTO: David and Beverly HarperHandout
PHOTO: David and Beverly Harper

James "Chris" Harper sat in the lobby of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin Thursday while his son David was being treated for burns he received in an accident involving the family SUV.

"I mean it is just hard, I mean that morning he was jumping up and down on the bed running around helping daddy... and that quick, something awful can happen," James, 37, told ABC News.

Nearly a week ago, Angela Baldessari, 32, James' common law wife, took a sightseeing drive with their two children, David Jamieson Harper, 4, and Beverly Christine Harper, 2, around the city of Milwaukee. James was working nearby at the Waukesha County Fair and was not in the vehicle that day.

"She was tired, she said she closed her eyes for just a minute. She really don't know what happened but the car was on its side, apparently it hit a tree and burst into flames," said James.

Following the crash the SUV was turned over in the middle of West Layton Drive, while she and her children were still trapped inside.

Angela was able get young Beverly out of the car with assistance from people who had flocked to the scene. However when she maneuvered to try and free David she could not undo his safety belt.

Angela told James that DJ was saying, "Mommy, mommy it's hot, its hot!" Eventually Angela herself was pulled to safety but David remained trapped inside.

Joel and John Rechlitz, two local firefighters who happen to be brothers, were near the area and were called by their wives who were passing by the scene of the accident. They rushed to the vehicle and worked alongside the other volunteers; John was finally able to cut the belt that was holding David and rolled him outside.

"[If it had not been] for the two firefighters and for the community, I'd be burying my family," James said.

Angela and Beverly survived the accident with minor injuries, but David remains in stable but critical condition at the Milwaukee Children's Hospital. Suffering from severe burns on his scalp and ears, he is expected to be in the Intensive Care Unit for the next eight weeks followed by months of physical therapy.

James hopes for the day that he can run and play with his boy again and feels that David, or "DJ" as he calls him, has what it takes to make a good recovery.

"He's a fighter , he's a strong leader. He's rough I mean he is a go getter I mean he really is," said James.

Although David is just starting his recovering his Dad is already planning far into his future.

"Maybe one day when DJ gets older, maybe he can be a mentor for another child who gets burned," said James.

The family, originally from Tennessee, had only planned to be in the area temporarily while James worked at various fairs and carnivals as a game and concession worker during the summer, however due to the recent events and the kindness he has felt from the community, they plan on moving to Wisconsin.

James told ABC News, "I keep saying it, the people in Wisconsin are angels and I want to be a part of that."

Donations for the Harper family can be submitted by:
Visiting any US Bank in Wisconsin and make a deposit to the David Harper Fund.
Make the donation by phone by calling the US Bank Mayfair location at 414-258-1440.
Mail the donation to David Harper Fund, US Bank, 2300 N. Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa, WI 53226.