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Motorcycle crash victim tracks down man he says saved his life

Jim Thomes (right) was among the first on the scene when Jeff Schroeder (left) crashed his motorcycle on Highway 29 North in Alexandria, Minn., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Thomes is a first responder in Long Prairie, Minn., and says he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Beth Leipholtz / Forum News Service1 / 2
Emergency response on scene where Jeff Schroeder crashed his motorcycle May 10, 2017, in Alexandria, Minn. Celeste Edenloff / Forum News Service2 / 2

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Brake lights are the last thing Jeff Schroeder of Parkers Prairie, Minn., remembers seeing before his motorcycle collided with the back of a pickup truck on Monday, May 10.

After that, he says, he only recalls bits and pieces. But one thing he remembers clearly is the face of Jim Thomes, an off-duty EMT from Long Prairie, Minn., who happened to be driving by when the crash occurred. Thomes and another passerby quickly sprang into action, doing a full-body assessment on Schroeder and keeping him calm until the ambulance arrived.

"He tried getting up a few times and I said, 'No Jeff, you've gotta stay laying down,'" Thomes recalled.

The crash, which happened on Minnesota Highway 29 near Target in Alexandria, left Schroeder with a concussion, broken ribs, a broken femur, a broken knee and some road rash. Though in and out of consciousness, Schroeder says he recalls seeing Thomes' face as he lay in the roadway.

"I just looked up at him," Schroeder said. "This man was instrumental in saving my life. That's how I feel, wholeheartedly."

A few minutes after Thomes arrived, an ambulance brought Schroeder to Douglas County Hospital, where he spent four days.

After being released from the hospital, Schroeder made it his mission to find the good Samaritans who had stopped to help him. He took to Facebook and posted in the Alexandria Swap and Shop site, saying he knew it was a longshot but he was hoping to track down the people who had stopped to help.

"I was like, 'I want to meet these people, I'm just going to try it,'" Schroeder said. "Then he (Thomes) sends me a message, saying 'I was the man.'"

Thomes says he was glad he happened to see the post, as EMTs often don't know the outcome of patients after they leave the scene.

"It's not too often that we get in contact with our patients," Thomes said. "But I'm glad he did (contact me). It helps his healing process, too."

Schroeder is expected to make a full recovery. However, after 26 years of riding, he claims his motorcycle days are most likely behind him.

"I'm going to rebuild the bike and get on it as least once, even if I just get on it once and sell it," Schroeder said. "I'm not going to let it defeat me. I probably won't ride for good, but I need to get back on it."

After this experience, Schroeder stresses the importance of a helmet and proper riding gear.

"I am a firm believer in wearing helmets," he said. "I had a helmet on and riding gear, the whole nine yards. The police officer said if I had not been wearing my helmet, I would not be here."

As for the good timing of Thomes' arrival, Schroeder says he believes it was the work of his mother, father and mother-in-law, all of whom passed away recently.

"I truly believe they sent him to me," he said. "I'm here and I don't take any days for granted from this day forward."

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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