ST. PAUL – Finding victims unresponsive and performing CPR to help them breathe again. Taking chase to apprehend a suspect. Rescuing trapped people from vehicles. The law enforcement officers and citizens responsible for these heroic acts were among those honored today by the Minnesota State Patrol at its annual awards ceremony.
Each year, the Patrol honors citizens, troopers and other public servants who performed life-saving acts or excelled in a crisis to ensure safer Minnesota roads. The awards and their recipients include:
Meritorious Citizenship Awards – Presented to citizens who have assisted the State Patrol in providing a significant service to the public.
- Robert Renning – Robert Renning flagged down a motorist on Interstate 35W to make him aware his vehicle was on fire. When the driver stopped his vehicle, it filled with smoke and the electronic locks and windows failed, trapping the man inside his burning vehicle. Renning bent the locked door in half with his bare hands and pulled the driver from his burning car.
- David Baxley – David Baxley stopped at a head-on crash on Highway 52 in Stearns County. One of the cars involved in the crash was flipped over and on fire. Baxley ran to the burning vehicle, cut the driver’s seatbelt and pulled him through a window and away from the burning car.
- Mark Toms, Laci Silgjord, Sgt. Scott Parker (Life Saving Award; unable to attend) and Robert Zobel (Minnesota State Patrol Commendation Award) – A 77 year old northern Minnesota man had a heart attack while behind the wheel and crashed his truck into trees along the road. Three motorists stopped to help – off duty Floodwood firefighter Robert Zobel, retired Fredenburg firefighter Mark Toms and Laci Silgjord, a nurse. They quickly ran to the truck. Unable to open the driver’s door, they pulled the man out the window and began CPR. Sgt. Scott Parker arrived, grabbed his AED and administered a shock. CPR and rescue breathing were continued until an ambulance arrived.
- Scott County Deputy Michael Turek – After striking a deer on Highway 169, a driver and her passenger got out of their vehicle to call for help, and their car was hit by another vehicle as it swerved to avoid the deer. Both women were thrown into the ditch. The passenger received severe injuries to her legs. Deputy Michael Turek arrived and used a tourniquet to control the bleeding and applied first aid until paramedics arrived.
- Trp. Patric Ignaszewiski and Trp. Ricardo Magana (Life Saving Award), Faribault Police Officer Benjamin Johns (Minnesota State Patrol Commendation Award) – After arriving at a crash scene, Trooper Patric Ignaszewski noticed a man going into shock. Ignaszewski saw a deep laceration to the man’s left hamstring, elevated the man’s leg and started treating the wound. Trooper Ricardo Magana applied pressure to the laceration with a trauma pad as Faribault Police Officer Benjamin Johns wrapped a bandage around the pad and wound to maintain pressure. Paramedics on the scene say the Troopers’ and Officer’s actions were critical in preventing the man from bleeding to death.
- Sgt. Calvin Michaels – While searching for a missing four-year-old in rural Thief River Falls, Sgt. Calvin Michaels asked the adult babysitter about where the little girl was last seen. After learning she was last seen in the garage, Michaels discovered an older style refrigerator with a latch-type handle. As soon as he opened the door, he found the four-year-old curled up inside. Michaels’ specific questions to the babysitter and attention to detail surely prevented a tragedy.
- Trp. Ben Uzlik and Trp. Andrew Gibbs (unable to attend) – Responding to a medical call on Interstate 35W, Trooper Ben Uzlik found a man in a passenger seat who was unresponsive and not breathing. Uzlik began chest compressions while Trooper Andrew Gibbs hooked the man up to an AED. Soon after, paramedics arrived on the scene and were able to re-establish a heartbeat before taking the man to the hospital. The Troopers played a critical role in saving the man’s life.
- Trp. Shaun Leshovsky – On only his third day in a squad car, Trooper Shaun Leshovsky played a key role in saving a child’s life. After being flagged down by a citizen about a crash, Leshovsky found a small child bleeding from the head. The Trooper worked with a citizen to wrap the child’s head to slow the bleeding. If not for his quick actions to slow the bleeding and keep the head immobilized, the child most likely would have died on the side of the freeway.
- Sgt. Mike Engum – While off-duty, Sgt. Mike Engum was enjoying time with fellow Trooper Joe Erickson at his cabin. They were eating and talking when Trooper Erickson started choking when he was laughing. Engum quickly grabbed Erickson around his midsection and performed the Heimlich maneuver. The food eventually dislodged from Erickson’s windpipe, saving his life.
- Lt. Brad Bordwell – While investigating a woman found passed out in her vehicle, Lt. Brad Bordwell discovered she was blue and not breathing. As he called for an ambulance, Bordwell lifted the woman’s head and she immediately took two breaths. He continued first aid until paramedics arrived. According to medical personnel, she was near death as a result of an adverse reaction to heart-related medication.
- Trp. Brian Beuning (Meritorious Award), and RCO Andrea Fletcher and RCO Brian Gaddis (Chief’s Commendation Award for Communications/911) – During a June thunderstorm, a woman traveling on Interstate 90 drove into flood waters and became surrounded by rushing water. Radio Communications Operator Andrea Fletcher took the 911 call from the woman who was in fear for her life. After dispatching help to the location, Fletcher remained on the line, keeping the woman calm. Trooper Brian Beuning arrived and pulled the woman out of the vehicle just before the water swept the car away. Beuning was holding onto the woman as the water current grew stronger. Radio Communications Operator Brian Gaddis knew rescue crews needed to be dispatched to save the Trooper and the woman. Firefighters arrived just in time and were able to pull the two to safety with a rope. Without the Trooper risking his life to rescue the woman and the RCOs’ calm and professional response to the situation, this would have been a much different outcome.
- Trp. Mark Lund (Meritorious Award) – While responding to a hit and run crash, Trooper Mark Lund located the suspect vehicle with the hood sprung open, totally blocking the windshield. As the driver tried to get away, Lund was preparing to perform a PIT maneuver when the driver lost control, went off the road and crashed. It was clear the fleeing driver was a danger to other motorists, and Lund put himself in harm’s way to stop the vehicle.
- Trp. Shaun Stang (Meritorious Award) and Kanabec County Deputy Mark Schafer (Minnesota State Patrol Commendation Award) – When Trooper Shaun Stang and Deputy Mark Schafer responded to a report of a car off the road, they found a vehicle sinking in Mora Lake. Observing a woman standing on the roof with her infant, Stang and Schafer jumped into the frigid water without hesitation. Stang was able to swim back to shore with the infant and went back to assist the mother. With another child still in the vehicle, Schafer made several rescue attempts without success. With water up to his neck, the Deputy stood on top of the vehicle as a marker until rescue crews arrived. The child, who had been submerged underwater for approximately 30 minutes, was rescued and remarkably has made a full recovery. Without the efforts of these brave men, the family would be mourning the loss of a child instead of celebrating this heroic act.
- Sgt. Chris Daas (Meritorious Award) – When Sgt. Chris Daas responded to a call of a person driving on a blown tire with sparks flying, he found the vehicle engulfed in smoke and flames. Realizing the driver was still inside, Daas cut away the seat belt and with the help of a Brooklyn Center officer, pulled the driver through the window and to safety. If not for the actions of Daas, the woman would have lost her life.
- Trp. Philip Jergenson – While at the scene of a suicidal man with a gun, Trooper Philip Jergenson learned the individual was in the military and dealing with several mental health issues. Jergenson, who is a major in the National Guard, recommended veteran service options during negotiations and suggested specific types of communications that made the individual feel more comfortable in surrendering. He turned himself in to police and Jergenson’s efforts likely prevented the young man from taking his own life.
- Trp. Thomas Erickson – Trooper Thomas Erickson has been instrumental in promoting the State Patrol’s “How to Save a Life”, “Forever Young” and “Gone Too Soon” videos. In 2014, Erickson presented “Gone Too Soon” 124 times, reaching nearly 6,400 students. He also coordinated another 100 showings with two other troopers, reaching nearly 5,500 teenagers. Erickson’s efforts have no doubt made a significant impact on young driving behaviors.
- Trp. Curt Thurmes – During the 2014 – 2015 school year, Trooper Curt Thurmes has presented the “Gone Too Soon” video more than 100 times, reaching more than 6,000 students. Thurmes has also been able to present to schools once hesitant on viewing the video. He has impacted many lives as numerous letters and emails have expressed praise and gratitude for his presentation.
- Sgt. Dan Holmes – Sgt. Dan Holmes has been a member of the State Patrol since 1988 and is District 2200’s only crash re-constructionist. During the past two years, Holmes has investigated more than 160 crashes, including several high profile crashes. He also participates in traffic safety efforts to help change driving behaviors. Holmes also reviews dozens of crash investigations from around the state, providing feedback to investigators.
- Commercial Vehicle Inspector (CVI) II Steve Krueger – CVI Steve Krueger is an expert in commercial vehicle hazardous materials enforcement. Krueger also identifies training and enforcement needs throughout the state. He traveled across the state to work with inspectors and troopers in conducting hazardous materials inspection saturations.
- Trp. Pete Schultz – In 2014, Trp. Pete Schultz arrested 199 impaired drivers.
- Trp. Nick Robertson – For the past four years, Trooper Nick Robertson has been tasked with bringing the 800Mhz Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response (ARMER) radio system to northwest Minnesota. Robertson has mastered the complex system and is now a region-wide expert resource who is in high demand, helping educate counties on the system.
- Commercial Vehicle Inspector (CVI) III Sergeant Glen Bjornberg – Since 1992, Glen Bjornberg has served as a CVI III Sergeant, supervising personnel in the metro. Bjornberg is considered a leader, mentor and manager who leads by example. The average CVI completes around 14 post-crash inspections a year. Bjornberg consistently doubles that number and this year he will at least triple the average. His knowledge and expertise in both administrative functions and commercial vehicle enforcement have made him the go-to guy.
- Trooper Joe Dellwo – Trooper Joe Dellwo joined the Minnesota State Patrol in 1999 and is now one of the most recognized and respected members of the State Patrol. Dellwo often uses his experience as a former teacher to help communicate and speak with members of the public. In 2014, Dellwo presented the “Gone Too Soon” video to high school and college students, presented a mock DWI stop and arrest presentation at Augsburg College, and worked State Patrol Day at the Fair using the rollover simulator to demonstrate the importance of seat belt use. Dellwo also assisted with “Bears that Care” visits to local hospitals, volunteered with fitness testing for this year’s trooper academy, worked the trooper display at the “Back to the Fifties Car Show” at the fairgrounds and coordinated the district’s T-shirt cannon events at local high school football games. Dellwo has a professional attitude, positive demeanor and a commitment to public safety that makes him this year’s trooper of the year.
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
More than 500 Minnesota State Patrol troopers are the foundation of the agency that works to provide a safe environment on Minnesota’s roads by assisting motorists, taking enforcement action, and educating drivers about traffic safety issues. In addition to road safety activities, troopers conduct flight patrols, search and rescue missions, and assist other law enforcement agencies.
Recent State Patrol Highlights
- The 56th State Patrol Academy is currently in progress at Camp Ripley with 50 trooper cadets in training.
- Find preliminary crash reports online at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/msp/Pages/default.aspx.