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Minnesota National Guard
2 area men, 1 Pillager man nominated for saving women trapped in pickup in holding pond

As the pickup plunged into icy water, help arrived from strangers

Stacie Kutzorik of Pierz and Melodie Lincowski of Park Rapids were trapped in their pickup after it went off US Highway 10 and landed in a holding pond Nov 24

Minnesota National Guard Staff Sgt Timothy Richards of Pillager, Chaz Bloom of Little Falls and Tony McNeal of Rice are now being lauded as heroes for rescuing the women

State Patrol Capt Al Kutz has nominated the three men for the Minnesota State Patrol Lifesaving Awards

Without their rescuers, Kutz said, the women likely wouldn’t have gotten out

The roads were in rough shape Nov 24 A mix of snow and sleet fell in the area and roads were icy Kutzorik was driving her pickup north on Highway 10 after a shopping trip with Lincowski, her future mother-in-law

Kutz said the pickup was changing lanes just north of the Benton County Road 33 overpass when it spun out of control The pickup rolled and landed on the passenger side in a holding pond

The cab quickly filled with water, leaving just inches of air on the driver’s side, Kutz said Kutzorik was hanging upside down in her seat belt and had to stretch her neck so she could keep her face above the water

But Lincowski struggled to get her seat belt unbuckled, Kutz said She inhaled some water before eventually getting free and moving to where she could breathe

Kutzorik doesn’t remember much from the crash But she does remember one thought that passed through her mind

“I remember that when we were in the water, I was thinking ‘Oh my God I’m going to die and no one is going to help us,’” she said

But help was on the way

Several passers-by saw the rollover and stopped, knowing no one got out of the truck Kutz said the women were lucky the collision happened during the day, when there was a lot of traffic and people could easily see the vehicle

Richards was one of those who stopped He said he was driving about a quarter mile behind the truck and saw snow kick up when the pickup went off the road

He saw the truck sitting in the water and stopped When he got out of his vehicle, he could hear the two women yelling for help

“Once I got to the truck and heard their voices, there wasn’t any other thinking going on,” Richards said

The training he has received during almost 20 years in the Minnesota National Guard kicked in Richards hopped into the water and Bloom, who was with Richards and had just signed up for the Guard, followed closely behind

McNeal also stopped and jumped into the water to help He was able to climb on top of the pickup and get the door open

Richards was able to get Lincowski out first, but Kutzorik was unable to get her seat belt unbuckled Richards said Bloom, a high school senior, went back to Richards’ vehicle to get a knife so the seat belt could be cut

Richards and Bloom got both women to shore Several other people were on shore, including two nurses, who were able to help the women until first responders arrived
Looking back at all the help she received, Kutzorik said she’s not sure how to fully express her thanks

“It was really an incredible feeling,” she said “This day and age people don’t stop and help”

The nurses left the scene before police arrived their names aren’t known Kutzorik said she wishes she knew who they were

Kutzorik was treated for minor injuries, but Lincowski spent several days at St Cloud Hospital because of the water inhalation She was released Sunday

Richards said he talked to Kutzorik on Wednesday and she told him that she was doing all right, which was reassuring for him

“I was at the right place at the right time,” he said
Kutzorik said the experience has made her look at life differently

“It made me think there are good people in life that are still willing to help,” she said

By Kari Petrie • kpetrie@stcloudtimescom • December 3, 2010

In your voice
Read reactions to this story

emilyinmn wrote:
i just want to say i am so glad everyone in that accident came out safe my friend gave me a ride home from school that day and we were under the bridge when the truck went in and we were one of the first ones to stop and we took off running for the accident their were 2 men already in the water when we finally got there and they yelled they need more help in the water and the next thing i noticed my friend was in the water almost chest deep and he helped walk the first person out that was a complete miracle and it gave me personally a new look on what to be thankful for this year every one that stopped that day they were all heros from the lady that was calling 911 to all the people looking for blanket to warm them up to the men that got in the water holding the doors open and pulling them out

12/5/2010 7:59:11 PM

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