Ford Explorer Fire

A burned-out SUV waits to be towed from the Kmart parking lot on Black Hawk Road in Rock Island Thursday afternoon. A small child locked inside the vehicle died during the blaze, police said.

The 10-month-old boy killed in a vehicle fire in the parking lot of the Rock Island Kmart. The boy and two other children were in a late-model sports utility vehicle in the Kmart parking lot. While the boy’s mother was in the store the SUV caught fire. Two of the children were able to escape the fire. The fire was reported about 2 p.m.

A cause of the fire has not been determined. The vehicle was towed from the scene for further investigation. Investigators were to interview the boy’s family today as well as speak with other witnesses to the fire, Capt. Scott Harris said. The Rock Island Fire Department received the emergency call just before 2 p.m. While firefighters were en route, additional calls came in saying there could be someone trapped inside the vehicle.

Steve Novak of Rock Island was at a nearby Checkers restaurant when he noticed the smoke coming from the older-model SUV. “I saw some smoke, a little bit of smoke coming up and I thought that’s not right, so I drove over there,” he said. “As I was driving I was watching it. I saw the flame get absolutely huge and then all the sudden it just went. I saw that it was a complete, intensely burning flame.”

He saw a woman standing 40 to 50 feet away from the vehicle screaming: “My baby! My baby!” Some bystanders tried to put the fire out using fire extinguishers from Kmart, but they were no match for the flames, Mr. Novak said. “The fire department was there instantly, it seemed,” he said. “They got the fire out as quick as they could.” Mr. Novak said he hoped the child didn’t suffer. “You feel so helpless just standing there,” he said.