Demitria Leigh Hartl was driving on a rain-and-snow-slickened Highway 37 outside Hibbing, Minnesota, on Nov. 11 when she suddenly lost control of her car. Next thing she knew, she was trapped upside-down as her vehicle sank into a rain-filled ditch and icy water rushed in.
Luckily, Lake Country Power lineworkers Tim Rasmusson, Cody Vredenberg, Matt Bade and Tyler McClellan were driving back to work from their lunch break when they saw the overturned, partially submerged Toyota Camry. They pulled over the bucket truck and ran into the cold, brown water to see if someone needed help.
“They were in waist-deep water, soaked to the bone, when they went under to see if anyone was inside,” said Tami Zaun, public relations coordinator for the Cohasset-based co-op.
“They spotted a young woman and two empty car seats in the backseat. That’s when their hearts all stopped, adrenaline kicked in, and they immediately went into rescue mode.”
While one lineworker called 911, the others scrambled to rescue Hartl, 23. Rasmusson disconnected the winch hook from the bucket truck and used it to break the driver’s window after urging Hartl, who was struggling in the murky water, to move to the back.
“Then with their own hands and strength, all four linemen lifted the Camry on its side and pulled her from the broken window to safety,” Zaun said.
First responders arrived on the scene soon after.
A St. Louis County sheriff’s deputy told the co-op that “if four humble men hadn’t acted so swiftly, this would have been a very different outcome,” Zaun said.
Hartl’s husband Tristan thanked the co-op crew for saving his wife.
“We have two kids at home, and those guys made sure their mom came home,” he told the local ABC News affiliate WDIO.
The Mandan, North Dakota, couple is preparing to move to the area.
“This is a testament to our employees, their training, and their ability to quickly respond to what could’ve been a tragic situation,” said Mark Bakk, general manager of LCP. “Our employees truly are the best of the best.”
Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.