Co-op Lineworkers Honored for Saving Sheriff’s Deputy Pinned in Her Truck

Renville County Deputy Ann Millerbernd has performed her share of lifesaving feats in remote North Dakota, but she was on the receiving end recently when two electric cooperative lineworkers came to her aid.

North Central Electric Cooperative’s Randy McLean and Talon Thompson freed Millerbernd from her pickup truck after her arm got trapped inside its cargo bed while she was loading a mattress. A critical artery in her arm was completely blocked, and the deputy, who’s prone to blood clots, was almost in shock when they found her.

“It would’ve been a bad deal for her,” said McLean, a five-year journeyman-lineman at the Bottineau-based co-op.

For their efforts, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives awarded its annual Life Saver Award to McLean and Thompson last month during a ceremony in Bismarck.

It all happened last October when the lineworkers were eating lunch at the co-op’s service center in Mohall and heard what sounded like a cat’s persistent meow.

“I turned to Talon and said, ‘Do you hear that?’” said McLean.

They went outside and saw Millerbernd, yelling for help. She had been trying to load a queen-size mattress in her truck but lost her grip while trying to make a strap reach and inadvertently trapped her arm.

Randy McLean and Talon Thompson. (Photos Courtesy of NCEC)

“She was basically hanging from her truck,” said McLean. “She was stuck between the [truck] and the mattress. It was crazy, she was really hung up.”

Millerbernd said she didn’t worry at first. But the more she struggled, the tighter her arm got wedged and the pressure around her right bicep became unbearable. Soon, her fingers started tingling.

“I started feeling a sense of doom and was getting dizzy,” said Millerbernd, who tried yelling at her phone to call 911 but realized it was inside her truck. “When I saw the last ambulance leave town, I knew I was in trouble. Cars were passing, and I’m sure I looked like some unassuming person just loading up a truck.”

Millerbernd was considering dislocating her shoulder to free herself, but the two men arrived. They quickly got to work, undoing the ratchet trapping her arm, pulling the mattress back and freeing her. Remembering their safety training, the lineworkers checked her over and offered to call an ambulance. But the deputy declined, and the men finished strapping down the bed.

A recipient of lifesaving awards herself, Millerbernd wanted to somehow recognize her rescuers.

“I did what cops do,” she said, and gave them a big box of doughnuts after the incident. “I was really lucky. If they hadn’t been there at that exact moment, my story could have had a different ending.”

Co-op General Manager Jon Beyer agreed. “Randy and Talon are trained to prioritize safety in their work and respond in emergency situations. They’re true examples of the great employees that work at the cooperative, and we are proud of their quick response.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.