State Patrol credits man's quick actions for saving Verndale woman from crash inferno
The Minnesota State Patrol credited a rural Malmo, Minn., man for saving a life after a recent crash in Aitkin County. Trooper Kevin Skalsky reported that 21-year-old Kelly Stave from Verndale was driving eastbound on Minnesota Highway 18 a mile and a half west of Malmo when she swerved to miss a deer and crossed over the oncoming lane of traffic where she went into the ditch and crashed into a tree about 300 feet from the Roy Berg home.
"I was just outside letting the dog out and heard the crash," Berg said. "When I looked, I saw flames popping out from the vehicle and heard a woman yelling for help. I hollered for my wife to call 911 for a car crash, and then I ran to the crash."
Stave had been wearing the seat belt and air bags had deployed, but she was still seated behind the wheel because her driver door would not open, and she had a lower leg and ankle injury, and smoke was starting to fill the passenger compartment.
"I tried to open the door but it would not open," Berg said. "I asked the driver how much gas was in the tank and she told me that it was pretty much full, so I helped her out of the passenger side of the vehicle and across the road. Within just a very short time, the vehicle became fully engulfed in flames."
"First responders were there right away because they were having a meeting nearby when the call came in," Berg said.
Skalsky responded to the scene and investigated the crash. Aitkin Area Fire and Rescue assisted at the scene along with Aitkin County deputies. The vehicle had to be towed from the scene. Berg attended to Stave until rescue personnel took over.
Stave was transported by ambulance to Riverwood Medical Center in Aitkin where she was treated for a broken leg, cuts, scrapes and bruises and held for a couple days. Berg played the scenario down in a humble fashion but Skalsky was quick to note that, "If Berg had not removed Stave from the vehicle ... this crash would have surely turned fatal."
Berg later told State Patrol Regional Public Information Officer Sgt. Curt Mowers that, "You have to do what you have to do, and that is all I did."
"Vehicle fires are more of the exception than the rule in crashes, but they do occur as a secondary harmful event in some crashes," Mowers said. "According to the crash facts for Minnesota in 2008 there were no fatalities and only six injuries sustained in traffic incidents involving fires as a primary harmful event."
After speaking to the Stave family, Mowers noted, "The whole family expressed extreme gratitude toward Berg as well as Trooper Skalsky and all of the rescue personnel."
Kelly's parents, Wayne and Sheila, agreed with Kelly and the State Patrol, that she was saved by the belt and the air bag initially, and then by Berg's heroic actions. The Minnesota State Patrol also encouraged motorists to never swerve left or across lanes of traffic to avoid animals or objects on the road, and to always buckle up.
Malmo, Minn. is next to Lake Mille Lacs.