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IDOT employees honored for saving woman

When District 7 Highway Maintainers James McWhirter and Brian Campbell began patrolling Illinois 130 in Richland County on a frigid late January morning, they were not expecting to be heroes by the end of the day. However, heroes, or more accurately, lifesavers, are exactly what they became when they spotted an elderly woman with dementia on the verge of freezing to death.

“I am proud to extend the Secretary’s Pin to these fine gentlemen,” Secretary Omer Osman said when presenting the award for outstanding service to the men during a July ceremony in Effingham. “What these two men did is nothing short of heroic.”

McWhirter and Campbell were out in their truck that morning traveling through the small rural community of Parkersburg monitoring for freezing rain when they spotted an elderly woman wearing thin pants, a shirt and slippers walking down Illinois 130. As they approached her, the men could tell she was confused. Her clothes were soaked, and she could not speak because she was so cold.

Not only was she in danger of hypothermia, she was at risk of being hit by an oncoming vehicle. Quickly assessing the life-threatening scene, McWhirter and Campbell rescued her from the road, helped her into a warm vehicle and called for help until Richland County first responders arrived.

Supervisor Greg Mullinax monitored the men’s progress that morning and said they provided the comfort, kindness and compassion she needed. Later that night, he received a call from the woman’s son later that night thanking the employees and reporting that his mom is doing well.

“They’re a couple of good guys,” Mullinax said. “The department is lucky to have them.”