BAXTER-It could have been a parent's worst nightmare. Instead it turned into what a Baxter father believes was a miracle.
It was a nice, sunny afternoon Saturday, May 11, and Christopher Groenwold and his two children-Haven, 6, and Cohen, 4-were outside enjoying the weather. The children's mother, Rebecca, was at work. It was just before 1:30 p.m. when a U.S. Postal Service mail truck was making its deliveries in the Baxter neighborhood, southeast of Forestview Middle School. Christopher Groenwold walked up to the smaller-sized mail truck on Ottertail Circle to get the mail, as Cohen-who happened to have his sister's bike at the time-biked around.
Cohen's father got the mail, turned around and then he turned back and saw the front of the truck "hop up a bit," Groenwold said.
In a split second, the mail truck ran over Cohen.
"I heard kind of a pop. ... He was crying and I grabbed him and put him in my lap. He had a little piece of helmet still left on him. The helmet saved his life. When the vehicle rolled over his head, if he didn't have his helmet on he wouldn't be playing here today."
Monday, Groenwold held a few of the pieces of the helmet-one of the pieces actually had the tire impression in the foam of the black child's helmet-as his two children played in the sand alongside the residential road looking for ants.
Watching Cohen play with his older sister, one would never know by looking at him that 48 hours earlier could have been a life-changer for the small boy, who is full of energy.
"It truly was a miracle," Groenwold said. "It was pretty scary."
Cohen was transported by North Memorial Ambulance to Essential Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. The boy ended up with road rash, and scratches on his back and scalp.
"He has been sore in the mornings and I sleep in his room at night to watch him," Groenwold said, making sure his boy is OK through the night.
Emergency situations are something Groenwold is prepared for professionally. He has been a Brainerd firefighter for 10 years, and also is an emergency medical technician. Before becoming a firefighter he worked for North Memorial Ambulance.
"I never thought this would happen to us, but it did," Groenwold said.
Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said the outcome of this incident, which could have been tragic, was better than anyone could have anticipated.
"No one saw this little guy sneak in front of the truck," Exsted said. "We preach all the time for kids to wear their helmets. It appears here the tire went over the helmet and ... it's amazing. We're always preaching kids to wear their helmets.
"It's getting warm out and people are starting to hop on their bicycles, so this is a good reminder for people to wear their helmets."
Exsted said to see the bicycle helmet shattered in so many pieces and for Cohen to be physically OK, it is "pretty impressive."
"The helmet took the brunt of it," the chief said.
Baxter police strongly encourage children to wear their helmets when biking, especially with the summer months approaching. Police reward children they see wearing a helmet by offering them a Dairy Queen coupon for a free ice cream cone.
Baxter police also partner with the Brainerd Police Department and Essentia Health by hosting the annual Brainerd Lakes Bicycle Safety Clinic. This year's clinic was May 4 and more than 100 children participated.
Exsted said there will be no criminal charges against the mail route driver as it was just a "freak crash." However, the driver may be cited for a possible minor moving violation. The Dispatch is not naming the driver because they were not criminally charged.