'You just react': Suburban attorney recalls saving a drowning woman

  • Attorney Jason Howard, right, teamed with Lake in the Hills police officer Brian Anderson, second from left, and Sgt. Matthew Mannino, third from left, to save a woman from drowning in June. With them at a recent awards ceremony is Lake in the Hills Village President Russ Ruzanski.

    Attorney Jason Howard, right, teamed with Lake in the Hills police officer Brian Anderson, second from left, and Sgt. Matthew Mannino, third from left, to save a woman from drowning in June. With them at a recent awards ceremony is Lake in the Hills Village President Russ Ruzanski. Courtesy of Lake in the Hills Police Department

 
 
Updated 1/19/2019 5:30 PM

Jason Howard saw a commotion across the pond, people frantically shouting during the summer afternoon.

Maybe a dog had gotten loose, he thought.

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He stepped outside to the porch of his parents' home in Lake in the Hills and went toward the disturbance.

Then he looked across the water and saw what appeared to be the body of a lifeless woman floating at the surface. She had been trapped in her car 12 feet under after driving into the water.

Immediately, he jumped in and swam to her.

Growing up in the suburbs, Howard was a swimmer and trained as lifeguard during high school. But he'd never been in a life-or-death emergency like this. Plus, that was more than 20 years ago. Would he remember how to do CPR, even if he managed to pull her to land?

As Howard swam the woman to shore, using the technique he learned as a lifeguard, he remembers wondering whether it would even matter. Perhaps the woman already had died, he thought.

Then he remembers hearing a gurgle from her mouth. That gave him hope.

As Howard pulled the woman closer, police were there to help pull her ashore.

"I did one last heave onto the bank, and he got hold of her arms," Howard said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At first, the 34-year-old woman didn't appear responsive as Lake in the Hills police Sgt. Matthew Mannino and officer Brian Anderson carried her up an embankment to level ground. There, Anderson tried but could not find her pulse and the woman's face began to turn blue.

While Mannino called for other police to bring an automated external defibrillator, Anderson performed CPR. When the AED was hooked up, it instructed the officers not to administer a shock, so they continued performing lifesaving measures.

"I remember thinking that it didn't look like it was going well," Howard said.

But as paramedics arrived, the woman began taking breaths. She was taken to Centegra Hospital in Huntley.

Now, more than six months later, she is expected to make a full recovery, officials said.

Howard, Anderson and Mannino each were given lifesaving awards by the police department. According to the village's commendation letter, "had it not been for Mr. Jason Howard's quick response in pulling the unconscious woman to shore, it would have been likely the victim would have drowned."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The joint actions of Officer Anderson, Sgt. Mannino and Mr. Howard saved that individual's life, and they all deserved to be honored," Lake in the Hills Police Chief David Brey said.

Howard, who's an attorney in Oakbrook Terrace and lives in Chicago, only recently has started talking more openly about the rescue. The events of that day in June remain imprinted on his brain and it was traumatic, he said.

"I think a lot of people, if they're capable, would have done the same thing," he said. "I didn't weigh the options. You see that and you just react. You don't think about it."

• Do you know any Suburban Heroes? Share your story at heroes@dailyherald.com.

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