- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

SAVOY, Ill. (AP) - A Naperville man is being called a hero after helping several members of a family escape from their van after it rolled over and landed upside-down in a pond.

Mike Roberson, 40, told The News-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1PUYjzl ) that he was driving north on Interstate 57 Wednesday night, headed home from a family funeral, when he saw the van fishtail and swerve off the expressway and roll just south of Champaign.

“I slowed down to see if it would come to a regular stop and it started rolling,” he told The News-Gazette. His next thought was, “I hope they make it,” he said.

Authorities say the burly truck driver’s quick thinking amid the chaos helped.

Roberson scrambled to the van and began helping some of the nine people inside get out. He could hear screaming as he pulled children out first.

At one point he made eye contact with the driver.

“She had that look: Save my kids,” said Roberson, who added: “My thing was ‘Just get them out.’ I didn’t care if they had broken bones. They were cold, soaked. I’m just going to get them out of here.”

Roberson, who lost his cellphone in the pond, then went back to the roadway to flag down help. A motorist called 911 and state police responded quickly, Roberson said.

Police say one passenger, 43-year-old Murtuza Rajkotwala of Willowbrook in the Chicago suburbs, died. His wife, 45-year-old Farida Rajkotwala, is hospitalized.

Others weren’t seriously injured. Roberson kept them warm in his pickup truck as authorities continued to work on the wreckage.

Dale Grimm is fire chief in nearby Tolono. He said Roberson is “definitely a hero.”

But when Roberson returned home to Naperville he had to face some bad news: his town house caught fire while he was gone, killing his family cat and destroying many of his possessions.

Now Roberson and his fiancé are staying with family as they prepare to find a new place to live.

Roberson said the enormity of what he’s been through in the last several days has not entirely sunk in.

“After the storm calms, I just want to sleep for about a week,” Roberson said.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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