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‘Hero’ who pushed boy’s car off Metra tracks identified

William Anetsberger (right) whose car ran out gasoline stopped Metrtracks Tinley Park thanks Joseph McDonnell who stopped helped him push

William Anetsberger (right), whose car ran out of gasoline and stopped on the Metra tracks in Tinley Park, thanks Joseph McDonnell who stopped and helped him push his car out of the way of an oncoming train. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 7, 2012 6:14AM



A Tinley Park teenager on Monday finally got to thank the unknown “Halloween Hero” who last week helped him push his out-of-gas car off the railroad tracks in Tinley Park as a Metra train was approaching.

The previously unidentified hero who came to the rescue of William Anetsberger was Bremen Township School Treasurer Joe McDonnell — who has an office at Anetsberger’s high school.

“You can’t believe how grateful I am to you,” Anetsberger, 17, said as the two met late Monday afternoon in McDonnell’s office at Tinley Park High School. “It was all up to you to save me and my car. It was amazing.”

Anetsberger, a senior, told the SouthtownStar last week that his black 2006 Chevrolet Cavalier ran out of gas on the train tracks at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday, about one block east of the Oak Park Avenue Metra station. He was running late for school when he got stuck, and Anetsberger’s 140-pound frame lacked the force to move the car.

Luckily, a Good Samaritan helped him push the car off the tracks, but Anetsberger didn’t know the man’s identity. By the time he got off the tracks and called the police, the man had driven off.

McDonnell’s son, Chris, contacted the SouthtownStar on Monday afternoon concerning his father’s selfless act, calling him “The Halloween Hero.”

“My son was up this morning, and he put a sign on the paper and said, ‘Way to be the hero, Dad,’ and put a smiley face on it,’ ” McDonnell said.

McDonnell, 52, said he was on his way from his Oak Forest home to his office when he saw Anetsberger’s car. When McDonnell left his car and got on the tracks, he saw that a train was coming their way.

“I felt like, I have four kids of my own, and I was thinking, ‘Boy, if my kids came across a situation like that, I hope someone would be willing to help them out,’ ” McDonnell said. “It was just kind of an instinctive thing.”

McDonnell said there were workers near the tracks waving at Anetsberger to get off the tracks, but they didn’t help him. That’s when McDonnell acted.

By the time they pushed the car off the tracks, the crossing gates had started to lower.

“It seemed like the thing to do at the moment,” McDonnell said of providing help. “I really didn’t think about it. I’m sure someone was thinking, ‘What the heck was on that guy’s mind?’ ”

Once he got to his office, McDonnell said, he told all of the women in his office about his crazy morning and how nobody else rushed to the teenager’s aid. One car even pulled around and drove past them while they were pushing the car.

After confirming the gist of the harrowing story Anetsberger told last week, McDonnell also joked that “the young man got it a little wrong.”

He was alluding to the description Anetsberger had provided Friday about the then-unidentified hero.

“I don’t have a gray hair,” McDonnell quipped, “but I do like the fact that he thought I was in my 40s.”



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