Honors keep coming for Highland, IL first responders who saved baby
A group of seven first responders made up of Highland police, fire, and emergency medical staff received a standing ovation from a packed city hall at an award ceremony April 17.
The first responders, Highland Fire-EMS paramedics Todd Zobrist and Ty Barr and Highland police officers Sgt. Aric Steinbeck, Shawn Bland, Heather Kunz, Chris Clewis and emergency dispatcher Greg Stoff, were all honored during the Highland City Council meeting.
Every first responder played an incremental part of saving a baby’s life after his mother drove her SUV into Silver Lake during the early morning hours of March 16.
“We’re very proud of you Todd, and we are proud of you first responders,” said Mayor Joe Michaelis.
Each first responder was presented with an award from the city, and the whole group received an award certificate from the Madison County Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. During the ceremony four members of the SAR chapter spoke about the valiant efforts of the first responders.
“Your community needs to be proud and pleased of what you and your partner were able to do,” said the SAR chapter chaplain Lloyd Schwarz.
EMS Chief Brian Wilson gave a short speech that commended the first responders “for their courage and selfless actions” that led to the saving of the baby’s life.
“When we recall the events of those early morning hours, we quickly realize just how much worse that terrible tragedy could have been,” Wilson said. “Yet, we are here tonight, honoring this group of first responders, whose combined efforts provided the bright beacon of light during an otherwise dark day.”
Wilson compared the first responders to a “championship team.” He said that each person played a crucial role in saving the baby’s life. However, Wilson mentioned that every championship team has its “most valuable player” and during the early morning events, that player was Todd Zobrist.
While each first responder received an award, Zobrist was handed a special plaque from Mayor Michaelis and was given a special award by SAR Chapter President Charles Dobias.
Zobrist and his partner Ty Barr were coming off of an almost 24-hour shift when they responded to an emergency call at 5:30 a.m. telling them to go to Silver Lake, where they would find a partially submerged vehicle.
After arriving, Zobrist and Barr noticed the headlights of the SUV were still shining through the dark water, signaling the event had just happened.
Zobrist immediately stripped his clothes off and swam through 75 feet of frigid water to reach the SUV. After a quick search of the vehicle, he noticed the baby floating toward the back of the car. After assessing that the child was not breathing, Zobrist preformed CPR on the roof of the car.
Barr yelled from the shoreline that the firefighters bringing a boat and diving gear had to wait for a train to pass. Zobrist knew that he did not have time to wait for the boat and that he would need to swim again.
After the baby began breathing on his own, Zobrist climbed back into the water and swam toward shore. Once his feet could touch the lake bottom, he held the baby above the water and began running through the water toward the bank of the lake.
Zobrist, now experiencing hypothermia, was assisted by other paramedics and officer Bland once he was on the shoreline. Shortly after Zobrist and the baby were rushed to the hospital, officer Kunz resuscitated and warmed the child inside the ambulance while Clewis drove the ambulance, allowing Barr and Zobrist to care for the baby. Steinbeck kept the scene back at the lake under control and directed important communications while the others were busy.
Wilson said that while the events were tragic, the Highland staff took the actions necessary to improve the outcome of the situation. He said that during the events “everything seemed to fall into place perfectly,” from the 911 call to the timely dispatch of units and to short response times thanks to EMS units already being out in the streets.
“Although he didn’t know it, little Julian Campbell had every possible advantage going his way,” Wilson said.
The team was also honored at the Illinois State Capitol on April 6 by the Illinois General Assembly and by the Madison County Board in Edwardsville on April 19.
Wilson also said that while the workers are very gracious and appreciative of the many honors given to them, their primary motivations lie in the safety and well-being of the public.
According to police, it was 32-year-old Cristy Campbell of Glen Carbon, the baby’s mother, who drove the SUV from Illinois 143 into Silver Lake. Campbell’s body was removed from the lake later that afternoon.
Campbell’s home at 15 Dogwood Lane in Glen Carbon was found on fire that morning. Campbell’s husband, Justin Campbell, was later found dead inside the home. According to the Madison County Coroner’s Office, his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the head.
Cristy Campbell’s six other children were at home when the fire started but escaped without injury. Authorities said that all six children were placed with family members. The paternal grandparents, Henry and Nancy Campbell of Glen Carbon, have filed a petition in Circuit Court in Madison County seeking guardianship of all the children.