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Humble Heroes

IDOT Blog – Monday, May 16, 2022

Humble heroes aren't in it for the fame.

Sept. 25 wasn’t a typical day for two Emergency Patrol Vehicle operators in Metro East. David Taylor, a 10-year veteran, and Neil Grueninger, who joined IDOT less than 2 years ago, saved a man’s life.

Taylor was driving his normal route when he saw a car swerve and crash into a fence off of Interstate 55 in East St. Louis.

Smoke and flames were coming from the vehicle. Taylor, who saw the driver was unconscious, quickly grabbed a hammer, knocked out a window and climbed in through the back seat. Two other men stopped to assist. With Taylor, they pulled the man out just before the car became fully engulfed in flames.

“I think it went up in 30 to 45 seconds,” Taylor said.

Grueninger performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

“He was blue. My first concern was his safety, to save his life,” Grueninger said.

Both Grueninger and Taylor know how important their job truly is.

“Everybody thinks we just give out gas and change tires, but we’re first responders. We help with traffic control and it’s a great responsibility to help the public,” Taylor said. “I look at it like this, this guy couldn’t help himself, and it’s no big deal for me to try to save him. To me, it’s the job.”

That Taylor was at the right place at the right time that day was pure luck. He’d originally scheduled the day off but decided to report for duty as usual.

The heroic efforts of Taylor and Grueninger garnered some media attention in the Metro East. KMOV4 in St. Louis included the story on an evening newscast, but publicity was the last thing on their minds.

“I didn’t know about the newspapers and media until some friends of mine were posting on Facebook,” Grueninger said. “They were calling me, and then I got a call about KMOV-TV. We’re just two people doing their jobs. It’s a good feeling.”