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Kenosha man who died in Waukegan blast helped save others

Illinois plant explosion
Posted at 9:56 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 23:17:09-04

KENOSHA, Wis. — Friends of one of the victims of the Waukegan, Illinois plant explosion are speaking out about how he helped others.

Jeff Cummings, 57, of Kenosha, died along with Allen Stevens, 29, of Paddock Lake and Byron Biehn, 53, of Brighton. They are all from Kenosha County. There is one other person still missing from the blast and presumed dead.

Friends of Cummings said the motorcycle enthusiast would do anything to help anyone else including going back into a building that was about to explode.

Donnie Paulsen has known Cummings for 16 years. The two were part of Patriots Motorcycle Club in Kenosha. Paulsen is also a Waukegan Police Officer and had to work the blast.

"I arrived and his truck was still on scene and I heard he was unaccounted for," Paulsen said.

He couldn't believed that the man he called a brother could be gone.

"I am thinking that there's still someone in there," Paulsen said.

It took two days before Cummings was found dead.

Not surprising to his friends, they learned Cummings was one of the people who went back into the plant to get people out before it blew up.

"Jeff was one of the people that ran back into the building," his friend Guy Tappa said. "They are calling Jeff a hero, he is."

"This is the guy that would give you the shirt off his back," Paulsen said. "Wouldn't only give you his shirt, he would give you his pants, tennis shoes, socks. Whatever you needed."

The family of Cummings did not want to go on-camera but said they want to thank the all the first responders who helped, including the Waukegan Police and Fire Departments. There is a donation page set up for Cummings here.