CHICAGO (STMW) — Many people would think twice or possibly panic if, late one night on a highway, they saw a car on fire.
They may worry about their well-being, knowing a burning car conceivably could become an inferno at any moment. In all the excitement, they may not notice an unconscious woman hanging out of a window, let alone attempt to pull her out to safety.
Fortunately for that woman, Dan Giglio is not one of those people.
During just such an incident earlier this month, Giglio, 45, of Tinley Park, reacted as he was trained and calmly pulled a woman out of a burning car to safety moments before it was engulfed in flames.
Giglio is an Illinois Department of Transportation Minuteman, one of the drivers of those large, yellow IDOT trucks who patrols the highways looking for motorists who need help.
At 1:30 a.m. April 8, Giglio came across the life-threatening situation. He was on duty, driving north on the Edens Expressway, when he heard on the Illinois State Police radio of an accident near Wilson Avenue.
“I saw two vehicles, both partially on fire. I pulled up. A man was ejected. I checked on him. He was dazed. He never told me there was a lady in the car. As I looked over, I saw a woman hanging out of the other car. I evacuated her from that car. About five minutes later, the car was fully engulfed,” he said.
“If I didn’t look over, God rest her soul,” he said.
One wouldn’t know Giglio was a hero by the way he talked about the incident recently at the IDOT Emergency Traffic Patrol garage on 35th Street, just west of U.S. Cellular Field. Giglio sure doesn’t see himself that way.
“I did what we do every day. I did what I had to do,” he said. “I did what any of the Minutemen in this place would’ve done. It’s our job. It’s what we’re trained to do.”
IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell knows better.
“He saved that woman’s life,” Tridgell said.
A state police spokeswoman did not reply to a request for the woman’s name, and her condition Friday was not known.
Rudy DeHoyos, lead worker at the 35th Street garage, said Minutemen routinely come to the aid of motorists.
“We have everything from the mundane to fatalities. Sometimes we’re the first ones on the scene. We see some gruesome things. We see everything the police and firemen see,” DeHoyos said. “Everything they respond to, we respond to.”
When Giglio got home later that morning, he got a response from wife Diane.
“She knew because a friend of mine happened to call her and said, ‘Did you know what your silly husband did last night?’ It was an interesting conversation. (She said,) ‘Let’s raise the insurance policy,’ ” Giglio said.
He and Diane have two sons, Vince, 18, and Alex, 16. The family attends St. George Catholic Church in Tinley Park. Giglio “definitely” was at church that Sunday.
“The whole back of my coat was burned, and the front is full of blood from carrying her,” he said.
Giglio escaped injury and was back at work that night. His shift runs from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
He’s one of 75 drivers based at the 35th Street garage. They monitor the free highways in the Chicago area. It’s not unusual for them to drive up to 260 miles per shift.
Giglio once was hit by a car while checking out a disabled car.
“As I got out, here comes a car that hit me into the wall. I broke my tailbone and fractured my ankle,” Giglio said.
Three Minutemen have died on the job, DeHoyos said. Plaques bearing their names are in the garage, along with a sign that reads: “No job is so important and no service is so urgent that time can not be taken to work and drive safely.”
Giglio lives by those words.
“There are times I don’t want to drive myself because I know what’s out there,” he said.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)