Highland Fire-EMS paramedic Todd Zobrist of Pocahontas has been named the recipient of this year’s EMS Hero Award from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Zobrist and is partner Ty Barr had already worked nearly a 24-hour shift when they responded to an emergency call around 5:30 a.m. March 16 at Silver Lake, where an SUV was partially submerged.
When Zobrist and Barr arrived, they could still see the headlights from the SUV beaming through the cold water in the predawn darkness. They knew they must act fast, knowing that firefighters with a boat and special diving gear were stuck at a railroad crossing.
Zobrist swam 75 feet in life-threatening, 46-degree water, where he found an infant boy floating inside the SUV. The baby was not breathing, so Zobrist performed CPR on the baby while on the roof of the SUV, and the baby began to breathe on his own.
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About seven minutes after Zobrist and Barr arrived on the scene, Zobrist dove back into the water, swimming back to shore with the baby in tow.
Zobrist was presented the Hero Award in conjunction with National EMS Week, May 21-27, and EMS Children’s Day, May 24, which recognize the important contributions and dedication of paramedics, police, firefighters, and other first responders who provide day-to-day lifesaving services.
“The men and women being honored during National EMS Week are true heroes who have acted selflessly to help people in need during emergency situations,” said IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah, M.D. J.D.
In Illinois, there are 63 EMS resource hospitals, 67 trauma centers, 7,894 individuals licensed as first-responder defibrillators, 36,842 emergency medical technicians (20,469 basic, 605 intermediate, 15,768 paramedic), 4,959 emergency communications registered nurses, 2,702 trauma nurse specialists, 409 pre-hospital registered nurses, and 2,892 emergency medical dispatchers providing 24-hour service to the people of Illinois. Approximately two-thirds of all EMS providers are volunteers.
Zobrist is both a professional and a volunteer. His job with the city of Highland is his full-time employment, but he as serves as a volunteer firefighter with the Highland-Pierron Fire Department, where he is a captain.
“Thousands of emergency workers in Illinois put their lives on the line every day, while others are simply citizens who have acted with courage to help others avoid serious injury or even death, Shah said. “This week, the Illinois Department of Public Health honors these heroes and would like to say thank you for their courage, time, and dedication.”
Police say it was the baby’s mother, 32-year-old Cristy Campbell of Glen Carbon, who drove the blue-gray Nissan Armada with the baby inside off of Illinois 143 and into Silver Lake. Campbell’s body was pulled from the lake later that afternoon.
Campbell’s home at 15 Dogwood Lane in Glen Carbon was ablaze that morning, and Campbell’s husband, Justin Campbell, was later found dead inside. He died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Madison County Coroner’s Office.
Campbell’s six other children were home at the time of the fire and escaped without injury. All six were placed with relatives, according to authorities. At last report, the baby was reportedly doing well. 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.
The IDPH award is just the latest in a string of accolades bestowed upon Zobrist and other Highland emergency personnel who played a role in the events of March 16. The Illinois General Assembly, Highland City Council, Madison County and the VFW have also honored Zobrist and the other first-responders and city employees who helped that day.