A Brookfield man who was dangling, apparently for hours, from the railroad bridge over the Des Plaines River just south of the Forest Avenue bridge in Riverside early on Nov. 5, can thank a Riverside man for his rescue.
West Avenue resident Michael Stegner said he was outside having a late-night cigarette at around 3 a.m. when he heard a man screaming for help somewhere in the dark to the south of his home.
“He was out there for a few hours,” Stegner said. “I heard him earlier, but I live on the river and I thought it was someone just out there fishing at night. People get drunk and sit there all night fishing sometimes.”
When he awoke at 3 a.m. and went to have a cigarette, he listened more closely.
“He was calling for help,” Stegner said.
“I didn’t even want to go at first,” he added. “He didn’t answer me when I asked, ‘Where are you?’ He kept saying, ‘Follow my voice,’ and I didn’t want to walk over there by myself.”
Finally, Stegner knocked on a neighbor’s door and told him to call the police.
“Either the guy needed help, or I was going to need help,” Stegner said.
When Riverside police arrived at the scene shortly after 3:15 a.m., they found Stegner holding onto the leg of Brookfield resident Philip C. Warman, 42, who was dangling head first over the river by his foot, which was wedged between a pipe and the train trestle.
Police called Riverside Fire Department personnel, who tied a rope around Warman and pulled him to safety. Warman was transported to Loyola University Medical Center as a precaution. Riverside Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan said Warman showed no signs of serious injury.
Just how Warman came to be dangling from the bridge is still a matter of speculation, said police.
According to the police report, Warman said he had taken a train into Riverside at 9:30 p.m. and was walking down the tracks toward his home in Brookfield. Riverside Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel noted that the last Metra train to stop in Riverside was at 12:30 a.m., and Warman could have arrived on that train.
Police said they’re not sure exactly how Warman came to be hanging by his foot from the bridge, and they pressed no charges.
Riverside police contacted Burlington Northern-Santa Fe officials, who declined to press any charges against Warman. Train traffic was halted on the BNSF line for a short period of time during the rescue.