On October 2 last year, members of the St. James Emergency Medical Service, St. James Fire, and Watonwan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a head-on collision between a semi and a car.
Dispatcher Emily Bentson got the call that night.
“I was new to the shipping position and this was the first major accident I’d had on my own. 911 came in and it was the driver of the [truck] and all I could hear was, ‘Oh my god, hurry up,’ “recalls Bentson, a volunteer paramedic.” I’m on the phone [and] All you can do is get everyone else up and running. That’s why it’s hard for me. “
Get everyone up and running.
“As a paramedic, you see a lot of people failing. To see someone in as bad shape as you are, to be here is God’s work.”
“We got the side for a frontal. The way you described it, no one should live in this car,” said then fire chief Brad Orvis and a 21-year-old member of the department. “When we got there, you couldn’t really tell by the way the car looked that there was anyone in it. It was under the Semi’s tractor. After we got everything in position and the trucks there, where we need them, do the training and you do the job. “
Orvis estimates that it is only the third time in his 21 years that he has seen someone survive such a serious accident.
The first local police officer was Brandon Sprenger, Watonwan County Deputy MP.
“It was overwhelming, but you need to get back to your education,” said Sprenger, a three-year member of the sheriff’s department. “Be one of the first people there to try to broadcast as much information as you can over the radio.”
When arriving at the scene of an accident, Sprenger usually helps steer the traffic away from the accident. The area that night was closed from Highway 4 to Highway 30 – about 5-7 miles.
The driver of the vehicle, Brooklyn Liesch, 26, from Minneapolis, was the only occupant of the small Chevy Sonic when it collided with the Semi driven by a 26-year-old Sleepy Eye man.
“When I arrived, I thought there was no way anyone was living in this car,” said Mason Collier, who was there with one of the first fire engines. “We pulled back the windshield and she was in there and responding. It was pretty shocking.”
Collier remembers grabbing Liesch by the hand and asking if she could squeeze his hand.
“And she just held me tight.”
David Anderson was also on one of the first two trucks to arrive.
“The second time we got out of there, I just buried myself in,” said Anderson. “I think I have tunnel vision.”
“That was one of the most traumatic calls I’ve ever seen,” said Jadon Nusbaum of St. James EMS. “Just seeing where the car was, where the semi was, and how everyone was working and running straight to the car – it’s honestly amazing that she’s still here. From what I’ve seen, it was chaos, but everything that went on that night saved her life and she is here today. “
Nusbaum helped bring essentials from the ambulance to the scene of the accident.
Tracy Anderson, a 32-year-old St. James EMS Service veteran, also responded to the call that evening.
“Every time you hear Auto versus Semi, it doesn’t get any good,” said Anderson. “You’re kind of running through your head, ‘we have to do this and that and that.’ We have a great fire brigade. We can’t reach the patient if we can’t get in the car and that’s all they do to help us. “
“I just thought there was no way that this would produce a good result,” said Anderson.
Anderson made sure Liesch remained vigilant and calm when members of the St. James Fire Department cut into windows to get Liesch out of the rubble.
“You know you’re there on that person’s worst day,” said Anderson. “And for me, being able to help is the greatest reward.”
After managing to remove Liesch from the vehicle, she was helicoptered to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale to begin her long journey to recovery.
Liesch, who was buckled up that night, according to State Patrol, was charged with a gross misdemeanor and a DUI misdemeanor in connection with the crash. The court case is pending.
Deputy Sprenger summed up what most of those who witnessed the scene of the accident thought: “It’s a miracle. She had a guardian angel that night.”
“Broken from top to bottom”
Liesch’s parents, Mike and Laura, were in a relative’s cabin three hours north of their Minneapolis home when they got the call around midnight.
“It’s the call no parent would ever want to receive,” said Mike Liesch. “We didn’t have a great reception in the cell, so the information we got was very spotty, but we drove three hours to get to the hospital without really knowing what we were going to find – what condition ours were in.” Daughter would be. “
Somewhere along the way, Liesch flattened and had to use a defibrillator to revive her. Her numerous injuries included eight broken ribs, two broken hands and ulnas, as well as a broken pelvis, sacrum, right femur, right tibia, and right foot.
When Mike Liesch saw his daughter through the glass for the first time since the accident, he was relieved.
“I was so grateful just to see that she was awake and looking at me through the glass. [She was] Broken top down, but somehow there wasn’t a scratch on her face. “
Liesch had seven operations in 10 days. Her eighth operation was a bone graft. Liesch has planned another operation to remove some of the hardware from her tibia.
She spent seven weeks in the hospital, two of them in a transitional care unit.
“I was there for two weeks and occupational therapy and physiotherapy were also there,” said Liesch. “It’s more like preparing to go where you’re going next. So it’s been a lot of therapy and a lot of relearning how to do the basics of everyday life.”
Just before Thanksgiving, members of the St. James Fire Department took the two-hour drive to visit Liesch and surprise her.
“It meant the world to me,” said Liesch. “I can’t put it in words. They surprised me so I didn’t know they were coming, which makes it even more special because they just surprised me … You don’t have time to think about how to do it. Thank you.” To the people who were there that night and saved your life. It was really amazing to put faces on names. “
Liesch currently goes to therapy for 80-minute sessions twice a week.
“The therapy was intense but good. I’m learning to walk properly again and it’s been really fun, to be honest – but it’s good to try to get back to where I was.”
Last Tuesday evening at St. James Fire Hall, Liesch and her family had the opportunity to thank the first responders who saved their lives.
“You have helped to keep our family intact,” said Mike Liesch to the large number of first responders who had gathered in the fire station.
“They just feel like superheroes to me,” Brooklyn said. “I felt like meeting heroes on the way here tonight. Hopefully it will encourage them to keep training and continue the good work because it really has such an impact.”
The Liesches exchanged “Höllen” and “Thank you” with the first responders and treated them to dinner.
Brooklyn also took inspiration from those who saved their lives last fall and is hoping to volunteer at hospitals.
The Liesch’s were also given a tour of the fire station and looked at the equipment that firefighters use on a daily basis.
“It puts things into perspective of saying ‘I love you’ to friends and family as much as possible,” says Brooklyn.