Passerby drags man from fiery crash

Fire chief: "In my estimation, he was absolutely saved by that person."

By Paul Walsh
The Star Tribune

TOWER, Minn. — Passersby rescued a driver from a fiery rollover car crash on a highway in northeastern Minnesota, allowing emergency personnel to spirit the badly burned man by air to a hospital, authorities said Friday.

The crash occurred shortly before 8:30 a.m. Thursday on eastbound Hwy. 169, about 10 miles east of Tower, according to the State Patrol.

Carlo Theisen, 44, of St. Joseph, Minn., "was pulled from the vehicle by two passersby," the patrol said in a statement.

Theisen was airlifted 90 miles to St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth and listed in serious condition Friday morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The crash occurred when Theisen's car drifted to the left, crossed the westbound lane and rolled into the ditch before coming to rest upside down in the road, said the patrol and Tower Fire Chief Steve Altenburg, who arrived on the scene as the car was still fully engulfed in flames.

One of the passersby pulled Theisen out of the car "a fair distance, over a 100 feet away" as the fire raged, Altenburg said, noting the added complication of the driver having on his seat belt.

"It was fortunate that somebody came by and stopped," said the chief, who rode in the ambulance with Theisen to the helicopter waiting at the Tower airport for the flight to St. Mary's. "In my estimation, he was absolutely saved by that person."

Theisen's father, Sylvester, who also lives in St. Joseph, said he and his wife feel "fortunate somebody rescued him."

Sylvester Theisen said his son will survive the crash but described him as being "in pretty bad shape" with "tremendous burns on both legs" that will keep him in the hospital for at least 30 days.

In the meantime, Carlo Theisen's family members are trying to find out who saved his life.

"We certainly want to thank them," Sylvester Theisen said.

Carlo Theisen had been staying at the family cabin in nearby Ely for the past 10 days, taking a break from his work in St. Cloud at a hotel and a restaurant.

"He just went off the road, and we don't know why," the father said. "He's a very careful driver."


(c)2014 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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