Child dies in car fire

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By Thomas Geyer

A vehicle fire in the parking lot of a Rock Island Kmart store Thursday afternoon claimed the life of a child, authorities said.

Rock Island police Capt. Scott Harris said that the fire was reported in an SUV at 1:58 p.m. at the Kmart store located at 3840 46th Ave.

"There was a report that possibly somebody was trapped inside," he said. "The fire department extinguished the fire quickly, but unfortunately, a child died as a result of the fire."

Police said the vehicle was a Ford Explorer.

Harris said he could not be more specific with the age of the child other than to say the child was under the age of 5. He also declined to say whether the child was male or female. The victim’s name also was not released.

Harris said there were two other children in the car, but they were able to get out.

It was unknown late Thursday what ignited the fire, Harris said. He added that it was too early in the investigation to say whether the children’s mother had left the children in the vehicle to go inside to shop, or whether she was nearby when the fire started.

Rock Island County Coroner Sharon Anderson said late Thursday there had been no determination on whether there will be an autopsy. No other information was being released, she added.

A witness, Steve Novak of Rock Island said he was pulling up to the Checkers restaurant located near Kmart to get something to eat when he noticed the flames.

"When I pulled up, you could see flames in the interior of the vehicle, but it was not yet fully engulfed," Novak said.

But literally only seconds later, he added, "fire was roaring out of every place where a window was."

Some people brought out fire extinguishers from Kmart, he said. But it was all to no avail.

"It was one of the most intense fires I had ever seen," he said. "The child’s mother was standing within 50 feet of it hollering, ‘My baby, my baby.’ And there was a feeling of being so helpless."