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BNSF workers help save woman in head-on collision

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Five BNSF Railway workers from Omaha, Neb., were called heroes Friday by emergency responders for saving a woman’s life and for helping three others who were injured in a head-on collision reported at noon on Highway 18, just east of Brainerd.

Of the four people involved in the head-on collision, three were transported by North Memorial Ambulance to Essentia Health-St, Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and one was airlifted to an unknown hospital, the Minnesota State Patrol reported.

At the scene of the collision, Lt. Joe Dwyer of the Minnesota State Patrol said troopers were still piecing together how the crash happened. Dwyer said a sport utility vehicle (SUV) was traveling westbound on Highway 18 and a Buick was traveling eastbound on Highway 18 when the crash happened. Dwyer said the Buick had no passengers and the SUV, which rolled onto its side into a swampy ditch off Highway 18, had two passengers. Both drivers and the two passengers in the SUV all were injured.

Dwyer said that the BNSF workers helped save the day.

Chris Smith, one of the BNSF workers, said the crew was putting in a railroad crossing on Nelson Road near the crash site when they decided to head to Garrison for lunch.

“We pulled up to the scene about a minute after the crash happened,” said Smith. “We were going eastbound.

“We saw the Buick and helped the man out and people were yelling at us that there was another vehicle with victims inside it.”

Smith said they ran to the SUV and saw a woman in the back who had her head under water. He said they were able to reach her, pull her head out of the water and pulled her out of the SUV.

“She was pretty rough,” Smith said on her physical condition. “But she was breathing.”

Smith said he went back to the SUV and held another’s woman’s hand who was pinned in the vehicle and he talked with her to calm her down.

The five railway workers all were happy to help out the victims. They said their adrenaline was going pretty high. It was a spur of the moment decision to go to Garrison for lunch, they said.

When emergency personnel arrived at the scene, Brainerd firefighters had to extricate two of the victims out of the SUV. There were eight firefighters on scene. Brainerd Fire Capt. Kurt Doree said before they could extricate the victims out of the SUV, they had to stabilize the vehicle. Doree said the BNSF workers “were awesome and jumped right into the cold swampy water and helped pushed the SUV back into a tree.” Firefighters then could do their job, he added.

North Memorial personnel also assisted firefighters during the extrication with medical assistance with providing pain medication to the trapped victims.

Firefighters cleared the scene at 1:25 p.m.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department and the DNR also assisted at the scene.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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