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Sheriff's office honors lakes area residents for lifesaving efforts

Citizens who stepped in to help individuals helped save the lives of two people last year. The sheriff's office thanked them this week for stepping in.

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Julie Nesseth thanks Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard Wednesday, Jan. 20, who presented her with a public service award at the sheriff's office for calling 911 when she and her husband Michael heard someone yelling for help Oct. 3 near the Hesitation Wildlife Management Area in the Garrison Township. The 911 call helped save the life of the man, who was duck hunting when his boat overturned. Nesseth is pictured with her two sons Justin and Brandon Nesseth. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Two people stepped in to help emergency responders with a duck hunter stranded on Rice Lake in Garrison Township and another helped a suicidal person.

Without their help, the two people in distress could have died, officials said.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard along with his staff Wednesday, Jan. 20, recognized three citizens and honored them with public service awards at the sheriff’s office for helping authorities with two emergency calls. Only one of the three area residents was able to attend the in-person ceremony. The others were given their award this week at another time by staff.

The three honored were Julie Nesseth and Bruce Holbrock for their help Oct. 3, 2020, with a duck hunter in distress on Rice Lake in Garrison Township, and Jennifer Sand-Schequen for helping June 11, 2020, by administering first aid to a suicidal person south of Brainerd.

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Nesseth attended the in-person ceremony with her two sons Justin and Brandon Nesseth. Her husband Michael also was recognized for the honor, but has since passed away, Julie Nesseth said.

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Julie Nesseth and her two sons Justin and Brandon (right) walk away Wednesday, Jan. 20, after Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard presented her with a public service award at the sheriff's office. Nesseth and her husband Michael called 911 when they heard someone yelling for help Oct. 3 near the Hesitation Wildlife Management Area in the Garrison Township. The 911 call helped save the life of the man, who was duck hunting when his boat overturned. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Julie and Michael Nesseth heard someone yelling for help just after 5 p.m. Oct. 3 near the Hesitation Wildlife Management Area, south of Highway 18. The area encompasses much of Rice Lake, which is a very shallow, swampy lake with limited access to the water. Michael Nesseth went to the public access to check things out and observed a parked truck. The sheriff’s office responded to the area and heard yelling as well, but could not initially see anyone due to the terrain and bulrushes. A deputy used an aerial drone and located a man in the water holding onto the back of his boat.

RELATED: Duck hunter rescued from Rice Lake after resident hears cries for help
Goddard said the DNR responded with its flat bottom mud boat to use in the water rescue. The problem was, the public access was not navigable by the rescue boat. This is when the second person, Holbrook, jumped in. Holbrook grabbed his tracked skid steer off his property to help push the sheriff’s watercraft into the water. Later they learned the hunter was in the water for several hours.

Holbrook Citizen Award
Crow Wing County Sheriff's Sgt. Aaron Cronquist shakes Bruce Holbrook's hands after handing him a citizen award for helping the sheriff's office with a water rescue of a duck hunter. The sheriff's office responded Oct. 3 to Rice Lake to rescue a 60-year-old man who was holding onto the back of his boat. Submitted photo

“This was a very detailed water rescue,” Goddard said. “The hunter was very cold and conscious but he was talking. What we’d like to say is people have to step up and this is one case where we truly, truly want to recognize you guys. ... If you would not have made the 911 call that day and offered your assistance there’s no way this person would have survived, which was readily admitted by this person.”

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After Goddard’s presentation, Julie Nesseth told the sheriff because of her husband’s death, the award means even more to her.

“This means a lot,” Nesseth said. “I’m glad I was where I was when I heard somebody yelling out. ... It made my day when I realized I helped save somebody’s life.”

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Julie Nesseth thanks Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard Wednesday, Jan. 20, who presented her with a public service award at the sheriff's office for calling 911 when she and her husband Michael heard someone yelling for help Oct. 3 near the Hesitation Wildlife Management Area in the Garrison Township. The 911 call helped save the life of the man, who was duck hunting when his boat overturned. Nesseth is pictured with her two sons Justin and Brandon Nesseth. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

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Goddard thanked them again and said the overall message he’d like the general public to take away is to encourage people to be neighborly. He said it would’ve been easy for the Nesseths or any person, for that matter, to do nothing and just think they were maybe hearing things.
“I’m thankful that the guy was yelling and had some good lungs,” Nesseth said.

Sgt. Craig Katzenberger, who was at the scene, said Holbrook went above and beyond by helping. Without his help, the outcome of the incident may have been much different. Katzenberger also said if the Nesseths never called 911, there is no way that the hunter would have survived.

The sheriff’s office delivered Holbrook’s plaque as he was unable to attend.

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The third person to earn the award is Jennifer Sand-Schequen, who came to the sheriff’s office Tuesday to receive it.

Sand-Schequen assisted deputies June 11 with a suicidal person in the Barrows area. Deputies located the person, who intentionally cut their throat and stabbed themselves in the chest multiple times.

While the deputies were tending to the person, Sand-Schequen arrived at the scene and identified herself as a nurse and offered to render first aid. She assisted until North Memorial Health Ambulance arrived. The person was taken by North Memorial Health Air Care to a metro hospital for treatment. They survived the incident, but it was not known what their condition was.

“Some of our incidents that we deal with are not only life and death but sometimes there are those that are trying to attempt to take their own life,” Goddard said. “There’s that fine line of public recognition as you want to be respectful to the family and the victim.”

Sand-Schequen citizen award
Capt. Andy Galles of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office shakes Jennifer Sand-Schequen's hand as he gives her a citizen award for helping the sheriff's office with a call of a suicidal person. Submitted photo

Goddard said the efforts of Sand-Schequen, who works as a labor and delivery nurse at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd, to help the victim gave the deputies time to organize medical units to respond to the incident.

Sand-Schequen and her husband were driving by when they saw all the emergency vehicles and it appeared they needed help, she said in a telephone interview.

“I am really glad to be able to assist with this incident,” Sand-Schequen said. “I have thought about this individual and I prayed for this individual, and my hope would be that God is able to restore their life, and that they're doing well.”

Sand-Schequen said receiving the award was neither necessary nor expected. All she would like to see is the individual she helped do better as they were in a dark place.

The sheriff’s office previously recognized people who took part in lifesaving efforts with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through its boat and water division. Goddard said they wanted to change this and have their own recognition program to thank people who help authorities. The county also wanted to recognize people who help in all emergency situations, not just the boat and water related calls.

Goddard said every situation is different and several factors come into play with the county recognizing a person for their lifesaving efforts. Some people want to thank the person who saved their life and others want to remain anonymous. And then there are some people who help who don’t feel it’s appropriate to be honored. The sheriff’s office considers all these factors when making a recognition.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.

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