Weather Updates

Man helps rescue ducklings from sewer as mama duck watches

Kurt Heersema

Kurt Heersema

storyidforme: 30604390
tmspicid: 11108544
fileheaderid: 5074336

When Maureen Kane stopped at Winston’s Market on Wednesday, customers were talking excitedly about babies being stuck in a sewer in front of the Tinley Park deli.

“I thought they were talking about baby babies,” the Tinley Park resident said.

The eight babies were ducklings, and they were indeed stuck in the drain. So small — Kane said each could fit in the palm of a hand — they’d slipped through the sewer grate, and the squawking of a panicked mom got the attention of customers and market employees.

Their rescuer was Kurt Heersema, an automotive technician at nearby Infiniti of Orland Park. He regularly stops in at Winston’s, 7961 W. 159th St., to grab a sandwich for lunch, and saw a crowd gathered around the sewer.

Heersema dashed back to Infiniti to grab some tools, including a large pry bar, to lift the sewer grate, which weighed well in excess of 100 pounds. It helped that Heersema, who was once a Boy Scout, is 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds.

He was able to squeeze down into the drain and, with the help of a bucket, retrieve the ducklings.

Despite the crowd that was gathered, mother duck calmly oversaw the rescue operation, Heersema said.

“She was literally standing next to all the people,” the Orland Hills man said. “She was very cool and calm.”

Kane said she sensed the mother duck “knew we were trying to help,” and that at one point she reached out and was able to give a calming pat to the duck.

However, getting the babies out of the sewer was just Phase 1 of the operation.

Mom was determined to lead her brood across busy 159th Street, so Kane and others acted as crossing guards, coaxing traffic to literally make way for ducklings.

Rather than being irked, drivers leaned out their windows and offered congratulations, Kane said.

As for Heersema — who said he simply went back to work without telling co-workers of his heroics — it’s not his first time as a duckling rescuer.

“I have dealt with baby ducks before,” he said.

At his vacation home, some baby ducks were stuck in a pond, and he was able to scoop them up with a pool skimmer.

Kane said she was happy to be part of what she called a “feel-good moment.”

“It just makes you feel good about humanity,” she said.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.