1998 25 Years Ago...

Highway crew rescues woman Workers wade into chilly water to assist driver

By Mary Bergland TR Sports Editor



Alberta Newspaper Group



Being in the right place at the right time was never so true as Thursday morning near Meadow Lake. Erin Willert, a 19 year old Texas woman, was heading west on Eckelson Road when she lost control of her car on the gravel and went into Meadow Lake. The car fell in sideways, rolled onto its roof and flipped onto its wheels. A crew of Barnes County Highway Department workers saw the accident and came to her aid. One of the rescuers, Richard Lee of rural Valley City, said he and his crew members Leo Zaun and Duane Peterson were less than a quarter mile away when the car went in. “When we got to her, the car was nearly submerged. She had about a foot of air above the back seat, he said. Because the car key was still on, the doors were not able to be opened, nor the windows rolled down from the inside, so Lee and crew broke out a back window and pulled Willert to safety. “It was a real fortunate thing those guys were close by,” Larry Mundahl, the attending officer, said. “With the water pressure against her doors and windows, she wouldn’t have been able to get out alone, probably. She was a very lucky lady.” Willard was taken to Mercy Hospital, where she was treated and released with a couple of stitches. “She got cut a little on the glass from the window, but otherwise she looked okay,” Lee said. “I was just glad we were close enough to get to her before the car went under.” Within minutes the car completely submerged with nearly three feet of water over its top. Lee admits the water was a little cold, although he said at the non-event he and the crew hadn’t noticed it. All four men were given the rest of the day off. “We didn’t even get docked for swimming on company time,” Lee quipped.