LEMONT – Lemont Police Department traffic safety officer Rob Raspanti had seen floods, but not like this.
On April 18, in the midst of severe thunderstorms and serious flooding, Raspanti was called out at 5 a.m. to direct traffic at 135th Street and Archer Avenue, which was closed due to flooding.
Sometime after 7 a.m., a car trying to turn around was pulled by a current toward the shoulder of the road.
After calling in the incident, Raspanti noticed the car had become half submerged, ran into the water and pulled open the car door to help the driver get out.
Raspanti later was treated for exposure and exertion but said he had recovered by the next day.
He is scheduled to be recognized by local officials at an upcoming Lemont Village Board meeting.
What was going through your mind at the time leading up to the accident and when you went to aid the driver?
Initially, I was surprised because we had barricades in place to warn motorists the road was closed because of flooding. ... Once I noticed the car was sinking more, that’s when I made the decision to go out there and help him out of the vehicle before it were to sink anymore.
How have you been trained to respond in emergency situations? Do you think you followed standard procedure well?
Yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. I just happened to be the one at the scene and I just went on autopilot.
What has been the reaction of the people at work and in the community? Is it what you expected?
It’s something more than I was expecting. I don’t feel like I did anything too special. I just did what anybody would have done. Everyone (at the police department) congratulated me and told me I did a good job.
Did the person you helped out of the car say anything to you at the time? Have you talked to him since?
I haven’t talked to him since the day it happened. However, the gentleman was very thankful. He was upset with himself for making the decision to drive into the water. He was upset that car probably won’t be salvaged. But as he said, cars can be replaced.
Has this experience changed your view of a career in law enforcement and emergency services?
This incident has affected my outlook on law enforcement in a positive way. I know I can do things to help people or be there for someone. As far as long-term goals, it hasn’t affected my outlook at holding a career with emergency services at all. If anything, its made it stronger knowing I can do things to help someone.