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Survivor of suburban bonfire explosion speaks

It's been nearly three weeks since eight teens were burned at a weekend bonfire in Lombard.Four of them suffer...

Posted: May. 18, 2018 7:08 PM
Updated: May. 18, 2018 7:08 PM

It's been nearly three weeks since eight teens were burned at a weekend bonfire in Lombard.

Four of them suffered severe burns and had to be hospitalized. Two remain at the hospital.

Alyssa Wolff, 15, is many things: A varsity cheerleader, a friend, a school leader and now, three weeks after the accident, she's also a motivator, hero and fighter.

"It was just like a huge explosion and the first instinct was to help my friends," she said.

One of the boys attending the gathering poured gasoline on the dwindling flames. All of a sudden, Wolff was on fire. She said she remembered what she learned in kindergarten. She stopped, dropped and rolled.

Then she realized her friends Korryn Bachner, Autumn Hamilton and Ivan Galarza were injured more than she was.

"(Galarza's) clothes were burning off his chest, but his sleeves were still on fire," Wolff said. "So I was trying to put it out or take them off of him or something."

Wolff burned her wrist trying to help Galarza, who was in shock.

"He was just screaming that he was dead and I knew he wasn't," she said.

Firefighters and paramedics arrived quickly and all four of the friends were taken to the hospital. The eventually were taken to Loyola Medical Center's burn unit, where Hamilton and Galarza are still going through painful procedures.

Wolff is home now and her street lined with red ribbons. And her recovery is going well. Her swollen burned face is healing beautifully. She said she knows how lucky she is.

"I feel like I look at things differently. I'm so blessed to be here. I'm so blessed to still have my friends," she said.

She said the experience has been life changing and has charted the course for her future. She wants to be a nurse and work in the burn unit at Loyola.

"I feel like after this I want to help people who have been through what I've been through or worse than what I've been through," she said.

The family wants to give their heartfelt thanks to everyone who has reached out and supported them. They said they could not do this without them.

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