CI Hero: East Peoria dad credited with saving 11-year-old’s life after birthday party scare

CI Heroes

EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A birthday party turned traumatic after the mom of an 11-year-old East Peoria boy said her son tripped and fell onto a stick impaling her son through the neck. A sweet reunion between patient, first responders and the man credited with saving his life is this week’s CI Hero.

It’s handshakes and smiles on a Friday afternoon. A very different scenario compared to a birthday party on Sept. 5.

“This is one of those one percent calls,” said East Peoria’s Assistant Fire Chief Dan Decker. ” We don’t have calls like this often…knowing that seconds really do count in instances like this.”

“He had been playing in the backyard and fallen,” said Peggi Kelch, Zach’s mother. “This branch happened to be sticking up out of the ground and it went straight through his neck.”

This 11-year-old sat with a bandage under his chin after narrowly cheating death.

“[The stick] missed everything. One millimeter away from two separate deadly spots.”


The first officer on scene was an East Peoria patrolman with less than a year of experience.

“I was definitely a little scared,” said East Peoria Police Officer Sean Olinger. “It’s not a common call that I go to, but you just take it in stride. You get there. You have a job to do and you do it.”

Kelch said paramedics, surgeons, and first responders all credited Luke McConkey with saving the young boy’s life.

“I just got him to the front yard and got him to lay down and calm down,” said McConkey. “[I] went and got some towels and applied pressure and just held it there as long as I could.”

“If it hadn’t been for [Luke], that first cop on the scene that kept Zach talking and those paramedics that showed up…I think that my family may be at a different event today,” said Kelch.

Kelch said she wanted to shed light on a national message.

“They didn’t question Zach’s race. They didn’t question anything. They came in and saved his life.”

Zach continues his road to recovery.

To nominate someone in your community to be our next CI Hero, CLICK HERE.

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