LEE COUNTY — On Jan. 13, 2023, the Illinois Sheriff’s Association honored Chief Deputy Derek Ranken, Deputy Nathan Hollinger, Deputy Joe Presley, and former Deputy Kolton Morgan with the 2022 Deputies of the Year Award. These gentlemen earned this distinction for their efforts in locating and saving the life of 3-year-old boy over the evening of December 22, 2021 in Harmon.
At approximately 12:56 a.m., the Lee County Sheriff’s Office received a call regarding a 3-year-old boy that was missing from his home in Harmon. The night shift, consisting of then Sergeant Derek Ranken, Deputy Joseph Presley, Deputy Kolton Morgan, and Deputy Nathan Hollinger, immediately responded to the area. Not only were they searching for a small child, but the child was last seen wearing only a diaper and the temperature that morning was 17-degrees Fahrenheit. Deputies searched the immediate area, as well as the home, extensively. The search area broadened, and additional resources were called in to assist with the search.
At approximately 2:27 a.m., Deputy Morgan located the child, naked and lying face down near a ditch on the east side of town. Deputy Morgan wrapped the boy in his jacket and then handed him to Deputy Hollinger so he could get some additional blankets from his squad. The child was unresponsive. It was believed that the child was exposed to the elements, unclothed, for approximately two hours.
At the direction of Sergeant Ranken, Deputy Morgan and Deputy Hollinger transported the child to KSB Hospital in Deputy Morgan’s squad car. This location in the county is somewhat remote, with no ambulance service in close proximity. It was immediately apparent that time was of the essence.
Deputy Presley was the lead car to ensure the safe passage along the route to the hospital. While enroute, Deputy Hollinger performed CPR on the child twice, which resulted in the child reacting positively. Dixon City Police Officers were at the city limits, and they assisted with traffic control as the Deputies rushed to the hospital.
Upon arrival at KSB, waiting nurses and doctors performed CPR, while also using the AED approximately four times, as the child coded. Eventually, all efforts were successful, and the child regained consciousness. He was subsequently stabilized and transported by helicopter to St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria for further treatment.
Statements made by the attending ER personnel at KSB Hospital summarize this best – “the quick actions and decision-making by on-scene personnel, rapid transport to the hospital, warming the child and performing CPR while enroute, saved this child’s life.”
“I cannot adequately express my gratitude and pride in knowing how exemplary our personnel responded and performed that morning. This was an outstanding team effort by all involved. Their quick action, decision-making, coordination, and response to this incident, provided us the best opportunity for a successful outcome,” Sheriff John C. Simonton, retired Lee County Sheriff.
The new sitting Sheriff, Clay Whelan was present at the ISA Awards Ceremony with these fine deputies and presented their plaques and gave testimony to this heroic event. “I am extremely proud to be a part of this team and work alongside these deputies,” stated Sheriff Clay Whelan, Lee County Sheriff.