THE FIRST PERSON TO WITNESS ALLYSON Hoary's wild ride was Peg Ransom, who was driving through Wauconda, Ill., on her way home to Libertyville, a Chicago suburb. It was 4:50 p.m. on March 28. The white panel truck ahead of her on Route 176 was doing about 55 m.p.h.—and a little blond girl was perched on the 10-inch-wide back bumper, clinging to the door latch.
Ransom, a 57-year-old public relations consultant, gave chase, honking her horn and trying to get the driver's attention. At the wheel of the van, unaware of the teetering tot behind him, Mike Hoary, 36, a vending machine routeman, was driving from his Wauconda home to his office in Chicago. Ten minutes before, he had said goodbye to his wife, Pam, and his children, Ross, 5, and Allyson, 2½. Shortly after he pulled out of the driveway, Pam realized Allyson was missing. She conducted a frantic five-minute search, then called police and reported her daughter gone.
On the road, Ransom swerved periodically to catch Hoary's attention. Thinking she had been drinking or was falling asleep, he speeded up. At this point, Dick McGill, 47, an off-duty fire captain, was driving into town. "I just happened to turn around and see this little kid on the back of the truck," says McGill. He did a quick U-turn and fell into line behind Hoary and Ransom. As the three cars approached an intersection, McGill pulled up next to Hoary and rolled down his window to yell, "There's a little girl on the bumper of your truck!"
Thunderstruck, Hoary jumped out and saw Allyson. "It was like, oh, my God, this couldn't be happening," he says. "It was like I was underwater." Composed all during her 5.9-mile ride, Allyson finally began crying. After five minutes together on the shoulder of the road, father and daughter drove home.
Allyson has since been warned about the dangers of playing on Daddy's van—and Hoary is planning to buy a fish-eye mirror to detect any future rear-bumper passengers.
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine