The scene unfolded quickly for three teenagers driving through West Dundee on a late October night.
They were turning onto Route 72 from Route 31 when the door to the Nissan in front of them opened, and a baby fell onto the street.
The teens stopped abruptly, shocked and unable to process what they had just witnessed. But their hesitation lasted only a moment before they sprung into action -- and potentially saved the 1-year-old's life.
Jonathan Padilla of Carpentersville and Matthew Gillespie and Anthony Arroyo, both of Sleepy Hollow, received West Dundee's Lamplighter "Special Commendation" Award Monday for their bravery and heroism. The award is usually reserved for village employees, but Police Chief Andy Wieteska said each teen played a critical role in helping the child and is "truly worthy" of the honor.
"This night could have ended tragically if they had not taken the time to stop their car and protect this helpless baby from additional injuries or death," Wieteska said. "They went above and beyond what is expected of a citizen."
The Nissan had been turning from southbound Route 31 onto westbound Route 72 about 9:36 p.m. Oct. 30 when the left rear door opened and the baby fell out, according to village documents.
Padilla, 17, was driving behind the Nissan and was able to stop his car to prevent the baby from being hit by traffic, Wieteska said.
Stunned, the trio said they looked around at other witnesses who stared in disbelief but didn't take any action. They thought, "We have to do something."
Gillespie, 17, called 911, telling dispatchers the baby was "launched" from the car. Arroyo, 18, jumped out of the front passenger seat and ran into the intersection to tend to the child, who was injured and bleeding from the fall, Wieteska said.
When two Nissan passengers returned to the scene, snatched the baby and drove off, the teens followed them and provided police with updates until the vehicle stopped at a nearby Jewel-Osco parking lot, documents show.
"The blood was definitely pumping (while we were) trying to catch up to them," Padilla said.
To the teens' relief, police and paramedics arrived moments later, and the child was taken to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Wieteska said the baby is safe and doing well.
Authorities believe there were too many people in the Nissan and the child had been sitting on someone's lap in the back seat, Wieteska said. The driver, the baby's mother, was charged with failure to secure a child in a safety seat, consumption of alcohol by a minor and a zero-tolerance DUI, he said. The Department of Children and Family Services is involved.
The audio recording of Gillespie's 911 call, paired with surveillance footage at the intersection of routes 31 and 72, were presented during Monday's village board meeting. Wieteska also recognized the police officers, firefighters and dispatcher who played a role.
Village President Chris Nelson praised the teens, who were the only people to immediately call 911, for their selflessness and ability to respond quickly.
"You put yourselves at risk, not only to grab the baby, but also to follow the car and to make sure the child was ultimately receiving care," he told them. "It was a very special thing that you did."