- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - What do you say to someone who saved your daughter’s life?

That’s the question Stacey Thompson of rural Carlinville faced when she talked to the man who pulled her injured daughter out of a wrecked car just moments before it was engulfed in flames along Illinois 29 near Cantrall.

“I told him, thank you is not enough,” Ms. Thompson said. “He said I didn’t need to thank him, but I said, yes I do. He saved my daughter. I don’t know what else to say to him. Thank God he was there. He’s a guardian angel.”

Stacey Thompson’s daughter, 19-year-old Kayla Thompson, was injured in the early-morning hours of Jan. 10 as she was driving alone south on Illinois 29.

The driver of an oncoming van, John J. Digiovanna Jr., 38, of Athens, who faces a drunken driving charge, crossed the center line and collided with Kayla’s car, police said.

Chad Shanle, 37, of Petersburg was the first person to arrive at the scene after the two vehicles collided. He was coming home from work, and stopped to see if there was anything he could do to help.

A fire had broken out under the hood of Kayla’s car, and she was still sitting in the driver’s seat. Her car door was open, but the force of the impact had pushed the dashboard down on her legs.

“She was kind of out of it. She was kind of moaning,” Mr. Shanle said. “I cut her seatbelt off with my pocketknife and hoisted her out of the car.”

The temperature was well below freezing that night, so Mr. Shanle carried Kayla to his truck, which was about 75 feet away. By the time he reached the truck, Kayla’s car was engulfed in flames.

While Kayla’s family calls Mr. Shanle a hero, he’s not particularly comfortable with the label. He’s glad he was there to help, but he doesn’t see his actions as heroic.

“I’m not a hero. I’d rather be the (good) Samaritan. I like that word better,” Mr. Shanle said.

Like Stacey Thompson, Mr. Shanle was at a loss for words when he talked to the Thompson family on the phone.

“You don’t know what to say . I’m glad she’s still here. That’s the main thing,” Mr. Shanle said.

Kayla, who is still recovering at Memorial Medical Center, suffered numerous injuries in the crash.

Speaking from her hospital bed Tuesday, she said she suffered a shattered elbow, a broken right ankle, a crushed left foot, a hole in the sack around her lung, a broken rib and fractures in her hip and pelvis area.

The family is unsure of her long-range prognosis, but they are hoping she will make a full recovery.

She doesn’t remember a lot about the accident.

“I remember seeing the headlights coming toward me. After that, I don’t remember anything at all,” Kayla said. “I remember waking up in the ambulance for a few seconds. I think I was screaming. After that, I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the emergency room.”

Like her mom, Kayla got a chance recently to talk to Mr. Shanle on the phone.

“I just thanked him. That’s all I could say. He saved my life,” Kayla said.

Kayla is a student at Illinois College in Jacksonville, but she doesn’t anticipate returning to class this semester because of her injuries. She’s hoping that she will be released from the hospital soon.

“She’s determined and independent. That’s all I can say,” Stacey Thompson told the State Journal-Register in Springfield.

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