Bartlett man killed trying to helping stranded driver

Updated 11/29/2012 11:00 PM
  • A family photo of Jack Douglas of Bartlett.

    A family photo of Jack Douglas of Bartlett. courtesy ABC 7 Chicago

Jack Douglas was known as the type of man who would, in the words of his son-in-law, "pay it forward."

So it probably came as no surprise to those who knew him that he died trying to help someone in need.

The 80-year-old Bartlett resident died Wednesday night after being struck at 5:40 p.m. that day by a vehicle on Interstate 57 near milepost 277 in Onarga Township.

Douglas had stopped his vehicle to help another driver, Jimmy Lee Westbrook, 58, of Brownsville, Tenn.

Westbrook's car broke down on the northbound shoulder after losing the driver's side tire and rim off his vehicle, according to state police. Westbrook then attempted to retrieve the tire, which had entered into the median. As Westbrook crossed into the northbound lanes from the median with his tire, he was fatally struck by a 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by 61-year-old Edward Fahrforth of Summit, police said.

According to reports, Douglas stopped to assist Westbrook, who was lying in traffic. Douglas assisted Westbrook's female passenger in dragging Westbrook onto the shoulder out of traffic.

Douglas then spoke with the passenger and said he would call for help. As Douglas ran back across traffic to his vehicle, he was struck by a 2003 Toyota Camry driven by In Sook Hwang, 59, of Champaign, police said.

Douglas was transported by ambulance to Carle Hospital in Champaign, where he was pronounced dead at 11:01 p.m.

Westbrook had been pronounced dead at the scene.

Illinois State Police said the matter is still under investigation. No arrests have been made in connection with either incident.

Douglas' son-in-law, John Babowice, said Douglas was taken to an area hospital after the accident, where doctors worked on him for four hours.

"They said when he came in he was talking," Babowice said. "They were having a conversation with him. But then after a while his blood pressure started to drop, and they said that he had internal bleeding."

Babowice said Douglas received hip replacement surgery about four months ago.

Douglas' son-in-law remembered his father-in-law as "the type to pay it forward. He came from humble beginnings himself. People had always helped him throughout his life, so he had done the same wherever he could."

Douglas had been retired since he turned 70. Originally from Tennessee, he worked on rivers as a tankerman.

He had also been the captain of a boat.

In his retirement, he had been splitting his time between Illinois and Tennessee, mainly because of the weather.

Douglas is survived by two daughters and a son, as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He had been divorced, Babowice said, but was taking care of his ex-wife in Tennessee while she was suffering from Alzheimer's until her death a couple of years ago.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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