WOODSTOCK – When Randall Ho heard a loud crash outside his home in Hartland Township on Wednesday morning, he knew it was more than just thunder.
The 39-year-old looked out a window that faces Route 14 in an unincorporated area near Woodstock and saw the conclusion of an accident involving a school bus and a passenger vehicle.
Ho, who suffers from asthma, immediately threw on his shoes and a sweatshirt and ran outside to make sure no one was injured. Near the accident, he found a passer-by who had stopped to do the same, off-duty McHenry County Conservation District police officer Daniel Hibbeler.
“When you see someone in trouble, your first reaction is to help,” Ho said. “You do what you hope anyone else would do if you were in the same situation.”
That person in trouble Wednesday was Deborah Furstenau, who was trapped inside her vehicle after colliding with the school bus only moments earlier, according to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.
Ho and Hibbeler made their way to the vehicle of the 53-year-old Harvard resident, found her trapped inside, and noticed that the engine was on fire, Ho said.
Unable to free Furstenau from the rear of the vehicle, Ho successfully ripped open the driver’s-side door, which allowed Hibbeler the opportunity to help her escape.
They carried Furstenau a safe distance away from the car, which only minutes later was completely engulfed in flames, Ho said.
“If we hadn’t come out there to help, I don’t think she would have made it,” Ho said. “She was extremely scared and screaming for help. The only thing we could do was help.”
Deputies later arrived and determined that Furstenau was traveling east of Route 14 when she lost control of the vehicle and collided with the westbound school bus, which was unoccupied except for the driver.
The bus driver, Christina Brigg, 36, of Capron, was taken to Centegra Hospital – Woodstock, where she was treated and then released.
Furstenau remained at the Woodstock hospital Wednesday afternoon with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
Undersheriff Andrew Zinke commended Ho and Hibbeler for their efforts.
“The woman had a broken arm and leg, was stuck inside the vehicle, and these two saved her life in the middle of a rainstorm,” he said. “We are thankful for their actions and proud to have people like this in our community.”
The crash is still being investigated.