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Deputy coroner rescues family from car stuck in water

Looking north route 41 north Route 176 railroad tressel where Lake County Sheriff's deputies said car was underwater. | Frank

Looking north on route 41, north of Route 176, at railroad tressel where Lake County Sheriff's deputies said a car was underwater. | Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 15, 2014 6:36AM

A Lincolnwood family, including a 4-year-old boy, were trapped as water quickly submerged their car during Monday night’s thunderstorms that rocked northern suburbs.

But their luck changed when a Lake County deputy coroner spotted the Le family and eventually rescued them at a Lake Bluff overpass on Route 41.

“I jumped into the water and assisted each of them out,” said Jason Patt, who also is the Democratic candidate for Lake County sheriff. “I opened the door, got the kid and one of the women out and took them to my truck. Then, I went back and got the other woman and then the next woman and then the man.”

The road was later closed between Route 137 and Deerpath Road due to flooding, according to the Lake Bluff Police Department. Some suburban areas had at least a foot of water. Due to the flooding, all Lake Bluff District 65 schools were closed Tuesday.

“We got stuck,” recalled Danny Le, 44. “We were in the car for about 15 minutes and the water kept coming up.”

Le and his family —natives of Vietnam — were coming back from their jobs at a nail salon in Waukegan, where Le, his wife and sister-in law work. His mother-in-law and son were visiting the salon.

They were traveling southbound on Route 41, just north of Route 176, when they reached an overpass where a torrential downpour of rain had created a pool of water on the road underneath.

Meanwhile, Patt was driving northbound on Route 41 in a coroner’s truck. The rain was coming down heavily and there were two, three cars ahead of him, stopped in front of the overpass. The drivers apparently didn’t want to chance going through the water.

“I see a car in the southbound lanes that is halfway submerged,” Patt said. “I walked on the median about 50 yards or so, shined my [flashlight] and saw people in the car. I yelled at the family to get out.”

Le opened the door a little bit and said he wasn’t getting out, Patt said. So, Patt asked if there were any children in the car and Le said there was one child. The water was up to their chests. Patt went back to his truck and called dispatch for help.

Lake Bluff Police Officer Robert Brezinski responded. He too tried to urge the family to get out of the car, but they wouldn’t budge. So, he got to work directing traffic and keeping others from becoming trapped as well.

That’s when Patt knew he had no other choice but to get in the water and rescue the family.

Patt then took the family to a local gas station, at their request, so they could wait for a family member to pick them up.

Le said that if Patt hadn’t arrived, he doesn’t know what he and his family would have done.

“We had nowhere to go and my kid was cold and scared,” Le said. “I want to say thank you to Jason. He’s a hero.”

Patt disagreed.

“I was just doing my job as a public servant,” he said.

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