Two IDOT teams have been awarded the Secretary’s Pin for not only going above and beyond but helping to save lives: District 6 highway maintainers sprang into action to rescue a woman and her son from a burning car near Springfield, while staff at the Morton Yard responded to a colleague experiencing a cardiac event.
Highway workers make the save
On Feb. 10, District 6 Highway Maintainers Tim Sperry and Greg Tanner and Temporary Winter Employee Don Seiders were out patching potholes on the Interstate 55 frontage road just south of Divernon when they saw a vehicle in flames.
The vehicle was traveling southbound on I-55 near the Divernon exit when it crossed into the northbound lanes, back to the southbound lanes and onto the median before moving onto the frontage road. The car narrowly missed hitting Seiders and Tanner before crashing into a bridge pier.
Tanner and Seiders jumped into the truck with Sperry. When they arrived at the crash site, the vehicle was on fire. A truck driver had stopped and was trying to extinguish the flames.
Two people were in the vehicle, including a little boy.
“At that point, there were four of us, me, Don, a guy heading to Arizona and one other guy all trying to get into the car,” Tanner said. “Don got the door open. The little boy popped out. I grabbed the boy, handed him to Tim and he put him in our truck while on the radio trying to get people there.”
Though the smoke made it difficult to see, they were able to locate the driver.
“We were trying to get into the vehicle, and we couldn’t, and all of sudden, she just appeared,” Tanner said. “Her head poked out, and we all ran in there and grabbed her.”
Popping sounds could be heard all around. They worried the gas tank might explode. They quickly moved the woman to a safe location.
Minutes later, the car was engulfed in flames.
Assistance then arrived from the Divernon Fire Department, Chatham Fire Department and Illinois State Police. The driver was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
After the crash site was cleared, the guys took a breath and went back to filling potholes.
“I was worn out and stressed out at that point,” Tanner said. “Once everything calms down, you come to terms about what just happened. But we made it through the day. We patched some more and finished up what we were doing.”
To honor their bravery and heroism, Secretary Omer Osman awarded them each a Secretary’s Pin on March 8 at a ceremony in the Springfield West maintenance yard.
“What grabbed my attention about this event is how quickly you reacted and human nature took over,” said Secretary Osman. “You saved two lives and for that, we thank you.”
Team pulls together to save colleague
On Jan. 9, the Morton Yard was preparing their day when Highway Maintainer Kenneth Crank sustained a cardiac event. Luckily, his colleagues responded swiftly to save the day – and his life.
Crank and Temporary Employee Dan Stahl had just hooked up a work truck to a trailer loaded with an excavator they planned to use for clearing trees and brush. They had pulled up to the front of the yard for Stahl to pick up his lunch box. While Stahl was away from the vehicle, colleagues saw Crank hunched over in the cab.
The team response was immediate. Staff members worked together to get the unconscious Crank out of the truck, perform CPR and apply the AED machine until paramedics arrived.
Operations Supervisor Dale Hiles is proud of their efforts that day.
“As a team we like to joke around with each other, but when work needs to be done, we come together and get the job done, so I was not surprised by their reaction,” Hiles said. “They all knew their strengths and worked together to help a teammate in his time of need.”
On Feb. 7, Secretary Osman presented the employees with the Secretary’s Pin and praised them for their fast and effective response.
Staff honored for their efforts included: Stahl, Hiles, Senior Resident Engineer Kyle Wheelwright, Highway Maintainer James Rutherford, Highway Maintainer Jeff Fulton, Temporary Winter Employee Brock Lindenfelser, Highway Maintainer Shawn Cummings, Highway Maintainer Bill Boyles, Highway Maintainer Dan Powers, Highway Maintainer Lead Worker Cory Irby and Highway Maintainer Lead Worker Joel Morris.
Because of their quick thinking, Crank was there to give thanks.
“Words cannot express the gratitude first to God, then to my coworkers,” said Crank. “Jan. 9 was a day that, even though I do not remember it, I will never forget!”
Photos courtesy Illinois Department of Transportation