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Lifesaving Officer Hoped to Make a Difference

Officers give credit to three citizens who combined to let the police know Deerfield resident was in peril.

officer Steve Pettorelli has often wondered what kind of contribution he would make during his 12 years on the force.

Pettorelli, three other officers and three citizens came together Jan. 1 to make the ultimate mark on a person’s life.

saved the life of a 55-year-old Deerfield resident by pulling him out of a car filling with water and floating on a retention pond at 540 Lake Cook Road at approximately 4:30 p.m.

“I’ve gone through my whole career wondering if I would make a difference,” Pettorelli said. “I got to do it in a positive way.” Neither Pettorelli, Annen, McCowan nor Kupsak have saved a life before.

The officers got the man out of the car as it filled with water. “It was up to his chin by the time we pulled him,” Pettorelli said. They also feared without the help of three citizens and the time of day, the circumstances could have been different.

As the man was driving a 1995 Mercedes out of the Coramandel development, Harry Polites of Lake Forest and female companion were in a car behind and saw the Mercedes hit the curb, careen onto the grassy median and plunge into the pond, according to the officers.

The woman ran to the building and told security guard Nestor Sajo what happened, according to the poliace. Sajo called the police.

“He’s lucky it didn’t happen 30 minutes later,” Annen said. “The witness might not have seen the car go down and the guard might not have called,” referring to the effort everyone made to save the life.

The officers arrived very quickly because they were nearby. McCowan was in a car at Waukegan and Kates roads, Annen close behind and Pettorelli was in at Lake Cook and Waukegan Roads. Kupsak was close as well.

None of them had done anything like this before and improvising was the rule of the day. McCowan got there first and saw the car in the water approximately two feet from the side wall of the retention pond.

“I asked him (the victim) if he was OK and he said nothing,” McCowan said. “I put my foot on the roof to balance myself and it (the car) floated. Water was rising from the inside. I had no idea how deep it (the pond) is and it was cold.” The cars' windows were closed.

McCowan broke the window with his baton and grabbed the man’s belt loop to hold it up. Pettorelli arrived next and held McCowan by his service belt to give him support. Fortunately, Annen had a pocket knife he used to cut the seat belt so the three of them could get the man out of the car. “He was out in 30 seconds,” Annen said.

“We are the first responders most of the time," Annen said. “We receive no training in water rescue. He (McCowan) used a defensive weapon (the baton) to break the window and he had a pocket knife.”

Police arrive first 95 percent of the time, according to Pettorelli.

As soon as the man was out of the car, the took over getting him to the Highland Park Hospital emergency room. After visiting the man there and talking to hospital staff, Pettorelli determined a medical situation caused the accident.

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