As a combat engineer stationed in Afghanistan, Victor Levy searched for improvised explosive devices and did construction for the U.S. Marines.
On the night of May 9, his and other veterans’ military training kicked in following crash in front of New Horizons Transitional Living in Hebron.
Operated by Crystal Lake-based Veterans Path To Hope, New Horizons gives veterans a place to live for up to two years. While there, the program also offers help to find jobs and permanent housing.
Levy, 31, was sitting in his room at New Horizons when “the pressure of the crash rolled over the building” like a shock wave, he said. Levy looked outside and saw a car sitting sideways in the middle of Route 47 with its driver’s side smashed in and the back bumper gone.
Levy, was wearing his lifeguard uniform and threw on a pair of shoes, grabbed his combat life-saving kit, and ran outside.
So did veterans Dan Ippolito and Reginald Bardliving, as well as other veterans living there.
Until officers from the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and EMTs from the Hebron-Alden-Greenwood Fire Protection District arrived on scene, the veterans aided the sole occupant of a car hit in the crash and directed traffic on the busy road.
Hebron Chief of Police Juanita Gumble said that the collision happened at 5:26 p.m. The sheriff’s office responded to the crash, which was just past Hebron’s city limits.
The victim was a 66-year-old woman driving a 2022 Jeep Compass, sheriff’s department spokesman Sgt. Eric Ellis said.
The other driver, in a 2011 Lincoln Town Car, fled the scene and drove into Wisconsin, where she later was stopped by Linn Township police officers. She was charged with driving under the influence there, Ellis said, adding that McHenry County officials charged the other driver with leaving the scene of an accident and improper lane usage.
It was their training and experience in the military that kicked in, three of the veterans that helped that day said.
“For all of us with military experience, we just reacted ... with what needs to get done, and get done right now.”— U.S. Marine veteran Victor Levy
“The driver’s side was completely damaged and it pulled off her rear bumper. She was very shaken up,” Bardliving said of the woman he helped out of her car.
Bardliving, 54, is a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1989-92, during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield as a single channel radio officer.
His goal on the day of the crash, Bardliving said, was “to make sure she was OK and get her away from the car. We didn’t know if [the crash] hit the gas tank or not” and was worried about the possibility of a fire.
Once they knew the woman was OK, Levy and Ippolito started directing traffic, getting drivers to stop.
Ippolito, 40, is a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 2007-13 as a master at arms. He is staying at New Horizons as well as working part-time for Veterans Path To Hope while going back to school.
As traffic began to back up on Route 47, Ippolito ran to his car to see if there was a safety vest in the trunk from when he was a railroad police officer in Florida. He didn’t have it, but still had a bright yellow hard hat, so he put it on.
Between his hard hat and Levy’s lifeguard uniform, the other drivers seemed to pay attention to their traffic direction, Ippolito said.
Bardliving stayed with the woman on the side of the road until an ambulance could take her to Mercyhealth Harvard Hospital.
They saw only one deputy on the scene, so they stayed there to help until the victim’s car was removed, Levy said.
“For all of us with military experience, we just reacted ... with what needs to get done, and get done right now. That is what we are all trained to do, to react to situations and the outcomes,” Levy said.
He realized as they were helping that although they are all of different ages and from different branches of service, they all had similar experiences, Ippolito said.
“You get the adrenaline hit and you survey the scene to see what needs to be done: you coordinate and execute the plan,” Ippolito said.