Photo by Jason White
(From left) Coroner Steve Nonn, Highland EMS Chief Brian Wilson, an unidentified reporter and State's Attorney Tom Gibbons watch as Sheriff John Lakin speaks at a press conference Thursday at the Madison County Sheriff's Department in Edwardsville.
EDWARDSVILLE - In darkness and cold Thursday, a Highland paramedic shed his clothes, jumped into a frigid lake and swam toward a submerged vehicle.
Inside, he found a 3-month-old unconscious boy floating in the vehicle with 6 to 8 inches of air space. He placed the boy on the roof of the vehicle and began CPR, eventually reviving the child. The boy is in a St. Louis area hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
Law enforcement officials said the paramedic, Todd Zobrist, saved the boy’s life, preventing further tragedy in a day that saw two people lose their lives.
“If there is something good that can come of this, it’s that Todd Zobrist in my opinion is a hero,” Madison County Sheriff John Lakin said. “The family of this 3-month-old is going to be able to spend a long time with this child because of Mr. Zobrist. I think Todd deserves a great deal of credit here.”
“Whenever anybody in Highland heard the story today, and they heard a paramedic jumped in the water, everybody knew exactly who it was,” Highland EMS Chief Brian Wilson said. “That’s the kind of person Todd is … we are extremely proud of him.”
Lakin gave the details of Zobrist’s actions at a press conference at the Sheriff’s Department to provide information about two deaths Thursday: one unidentified person in a Glen Carbon house fire at 15 Dogwood Lane and a resident of the house, Cristy L. Campbell, 32.
Campbell lived at the home with seven children, including the boy found in the vehicle. The children range in age from 3 months to 14.
The Glen Carbon Police Department received a 911 call at 5:15 a.m. about a fire at the address. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and found a dead person inside the home.
Sixteen minutes later, the Sheriff’s Department received an emergency call from a motorist driving across the Silver Lake dam on Illinois 143. The caller observed a vehicle with its lights on traveling down a hill into the lake.
During search and recovery operations, deputies found Campbell’s purse in the vehicle. Search teams found her body at 11:15 a.m. approximately 400 feet from the vehicle’s entry point. Her cause of death is unknown; the Madison County Coroner’s Office will perform autopsies Friday on both bodies.
Lakin would not say if Campbell was the mother of the children at the house, or how she was related to the person whose body was found in the house. Authorities continue to investigate both death scenes.
All of the children were in the house when the fire started, including the 3-month-old later found in the vehicle. Some ran toward the Glen Carbon Walmart, others fled in the opposite direction to a neighbor’s house. Family members in the neighborhood were able to get the children clothing, and a Walmart employee called 911, Lakin said.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is ensuring the children are receiving proper care and being placed with relatives, Lakin said.
“Our main concern right now is that the children are being taken care of, and they are,” he said.
Police are not looking for anyone in connection with the deaths, Lakin said. State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said criminal charges would depend on the outcome of the investigation.
“This is still in the early stages,” he said.
Lakin said Glen Carbon police have been to the home approximately 50 times since 2010 for animal complaint calls like barking dogs, hang-up 911 calls and domestic situations.
The sheriff thanked the responding agencies, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Illinois State Police, the Highland fire, EMS and police departments, the Illinois Department of Conservation, the Glen Carbon fire and police departments, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Madison County Child Advocacy Center.
“Today was a tragic day all the way around,” he said.
Shimkus recognizes Highland paramedic for life-saving actions
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a press release from the office of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois).
WASHINGTON – Moments after the House concluded legislative business Friday, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois) addressed the chamber to recognize Highland EMS paramedic Todd Zobrist. Watch the video here.
"Yesterday afternoon, Todd was the first to arrive on the scene after receiving a call of a vehicle in Silver Lake with a person possibly inside," Shimkus said. "When he saw the vehicle partially submerged, he swam out in the cold water to search for anyone inside. He found an unresponsive baby boy, rescued him from the vehicle, and immediately began CPR on the roof of the vehicle. Todd was able to revive the 3-month-old at the scene and the baby was transported to a St. Louis hospital, where he is expected to make a full recovery."
"I would like to commend Todd for his heroic and life-saving actions. It's a great tribute to Southern Illinois."
Shimkus also ordered a flag to be flown over the U.S. Capitol on Friday in recognition of Zobrist's heroism.