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A 16-year-old Anna teen is being honored for saving a man's life

ANNA — It was late Christmas Eve, and 16-year-old Kyle McMahan was driving home from his girlfriend's house when something caught his eye off the southbound Interstate 57 exit into Anna.

Kyle wasn't quite sure what it was, but turned his car around to go and take a closer look.

"I wasn’t really sure what I exactly saw," Kyle said. "I hurried up and (turned my car around and) turned my hazards on and was running over to look and got over there …"

What had attracted his attention were three running lights atop a Chevy 250 pickup truck, which had slid down into the ravine off the I-57 exit. It was around 10 p.m., about 32 degrees, and Kyle didn't see any movement near the vehicle.

His quick thinking and care to get involved have earned him a Life Saver's Award from Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel. Harvel plans to present the award to Kyle at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School, where Kyle is a junior, on Wednesday morning.

Kyle recounts what happened that freezing night.

As he looked down into the ravine and saw the running lights, it also looked as if the truck's interior lights were on, he said.

"I wasn't really sure what I exactly saw," he said.

He said he pulled out his phone and turned on his flashlight as he approached the truck, which had rolled down into the ravine.

He said he saw a man, someone he thought was in his 70s, whose head was pinned by the driver's side door of the truck.

SouthernEnviron / STEPHANIE ESTERS The Southern 

Using his father's truck, 16-year-old Kyle McMahan demonstrates where a man head was wedged between his open truck door and a tree (represented by his father's left leg), in an accident he came across late Christmas Eve off I-57 in Anna.

"I went over to the driver's side, the rear of the truck, and I could see his head … I could hear him … and his head was stuck in the door, between where the door shuts and … where the truck stopped. A tree was holding it from opening."

"He just kept saying, 'help me, help me,'" Kyle said.

A mix of excitement and nervousness hit him, as he wondered what to do next. What he did was call one of his older brothers, an emergency medical technician in the area, who helped to calm his nerves and told him to talk to the man to help calm him.

What he learned as he talked to the man was that he worked driving loads of trailers to and from Texas; he was on his way back to Texas after a trip to Chicago.

The man told Kyle he'd stopped to switch refueling tanks from the back of his truck. He had apparently neglected to set a brake on the truck, and the truck started to roll down the ravine. He tried to get back into the truck to put on the brake, but as the truck rolled, the driver's side door hit a tree, pinning the man's head in the bottom of the open door, Kyle said. 

His brother alerted other first responders; his brother and other EMTs arrived on the scene within about 15 minutes, Kyle said. After first responders and Union County Sheriff's deputies arrived, they were able to rescue the man in about another five to seven minutes, Kyle estimated.

Sheriff Harvel said the 71-year-old man was flown to St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. No other information was available on his condition.

"I absolutely believe that Kyle’s actions saved this gentleman’s life," Sheriff Harvel wrote in an email. "If Kyle had not checked on the vehicle when he (saw) the lights of the vehicle off in the ravine who knows how long the gentleman would have remained trapped. I commend Kyle for his actions and felt like this was a great example of concern for another human being. When I heard about Kyle’s actions I was inspired to recognize him publicly for saving the man’s life."

Harvel said he has presented college scholarships to students before, but this is the first time he has presented a Life Saver's Award.

This is Kyle's first rescue. He plays football and basketball and runs track at the high school, and would like to attend college — he's undecided about where right now, but he'd like to continue playing football. In school, his favorite subjects are math and social studies.

He credits his brother's tips with helping in the situation. He is one of five children — ranging in age from 34 to 13 — of Randy and Chrissa McMahan.

“I probably would have done the same thing, (but) I wouldn’t have been as calm," Kyle said.

He learned the man he helped was taken to a hospital for treatment and is apparently OK after the accident.

He said he was "stunned" by the news that the sheriff was giving him the award.

"(I'm) just glad he’s OK," Kyle said.

Illinois delays sending voter data to multi-state program

CHICAGO — Illinois will postpone submitting fresh voter information to a controversial multi-state voter registration database because the Kansas-based program has not offered updated security plans, election officials confirmed Tuesday.

The move comes as several states debate ending their participation in the free and voluntary Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

It was designed in 2005 as a way to help four neighboring states share information and clean voter rolls by making sure voters weren't registered in more than one state. The program has grown to include about two dozen states, including Illinois, which began submitting information in 2011.

But questions have been raised in Illinois and elsewhere about the security of passwords, accuracy of the information and the political leanings of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who oversees Crosscheck and helped lead President Donald Trump's now-disbanded election fraud commission. It was investigating unproven claims of illegal voting in 2016.

Kansas vowed late last year to review the program's security in the wake of scrutiny. Kansas officials didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday. They've previously said it's a free service that offers hard-to-compile information, and states are briefed on potential data issues.

Officials in Illinois, which typically submits data to Crosscheck in January, said they were yet to receive any new guidance.

"We plan to review and discuss those proposed enhancements upon receipt and we will transmit no data to Crosscheck until security issues are addressed to our satisfaction," Illinois State Board of Elections executive director Steve Sandvoss wrote in a letter sent to lawmakers last week, which election officials confirmed Tuesday.

After questions were raised by voter rights advocates and Democrats, Illinois election officials considered the issue, but voted in November to remain in Crosscheck. They were split 4-4 on party lines.

That prompted Democratic lawmakers to file legislation requiring Illinois to quit, which a handful of states have done over the years.

Other states are also considering leaving the program. A New Hampshire Democrat has proposed legislation to end multi-state voter information sharing, and Idaho election officials have also considered leaving Crosscheck.

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Women's March set for Saturday in downtown Carbondale

CARBONDALE — Women’s March Chicago, Action Illinois and Women United Network are combining forces Saturday for a statewide Women’s March in Carbondale, Springfield and Chicago.

This year’s march’s is being dubbed “March to the Polls,” encouraging all women and their allies to get involved in the 2018 primary and general elections. The march is also a celebration of the 2017 Women's March, which drew hundreds of people in downtown Carbondale and hundreds of thousands across the country.

Liz Hunter, Jackson County Board vice chair and march organizer, said this year’s march is a call to action.

“We are talking about marching to the polls because of the urgency for the need to change the people who are in power to fit the needs of everyone,” she said.

Hunter said 2017’s march was wonderful and she would be thrilled to see similar numbers again. She said this past year has proven the momentum has been sustained and women are in solidarity.

“If it weren’t for African-American women, Doug Jones wouldn’t have been elected in Alabama,” she said. “If we come together and vote as a group and work as a group, then we have a chance to make change.”

In a news release from organizers, they say they are dedicated to ensuring that the year of the woman becomes the decade of the women and beyond — by encouraging a huge turnout of female voters.

Hunter said in 2017, women were marching in anticipation of what changes they saw coming with the new administration in the White House.

“Now, we are marching to change what we have,” she said. “We are realizing we are a divided nation and we want to be stronger together.”

According to the Women’s March’s Facebook page, this year’s event will take place once again in downtown Carbondale, starting outside of the Civic Center, at 200 S. Illinois Ave. The lineup will start at 11 a.m., and the actual march will begin at noon. The event page said Tuesday there were more than 200 people expected to attend the march.

The march will go on for about an hour, with the participants returning to the Civic Center at about 1 p.m. From there, a table fair and forum be held. The group’s Facebook page says participants can learn about the Women’s United Network’s 10 actions that will lead to a successful election year. Speakers and representatives from local organizations will also be in attendance.

At 2:30 p.m., marchers will walk from the Civic Center to Hangar 9 for a concert and rally, with Loose Gravel, Free Range Chicks, and Honey and Tar providing the entertainment.

The weather looks to be in cooperation for the march as well. Early in the week, Southern Illinois saw temperatures in the single digits, but by Saturday, the National Weather Service is projecting cloudy skies and in the low 50s.

Before the march, a sign-making party will happen from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Old Train Depot, 121 S. Illinois Ave. in Carbondale. Some materials will be provided.