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Troopers honored for rescuing driver in Lake Latoka

Members of the Douglas County Dive Team helped get a car out of Lake Latoka west of Alexandria last November after the driver suffered a seizure and drove off Interstate 94. (Contributed photo)1 / 3
After rescuing a driver who plunged into Lake Latoka on November 10, Troopers Chris Halder (left) and Jesse Grabow watched the vehicle retrieval effort. The troopers received an award for their life-saving response earlier this week. (Contributed photo)2 / 3
Law enforcement personnel responded to an unusual scene on November 10, 2011 - a car traveling west on Interstate 94 ended up in Lake Latoka. (Contributed photo)3 / 3

Last November, Sergeant Jesse Grabow of the State Patrol was at the right place at the right time to help rescue a driver from a sinking car near Alexandria.

On Monday, he was honored with the State Patrol Life Saving Award, along with a fellow trooper, Chris Halder, and a passerby, Aanders Jackson, at an awards ceremony in Eagan.

Here's what happened on that chilly afternoon on November 10:

Grabow was driving west on Interstate 94 near Alexandria when the car in front of him started to drift off the road.

That particular stretch of I-94 splits Lake Latoka, and Grabow could only watch as the car, still going as fast as 70 miles per hour, hit the approach toward the lake. The car sailed high into the air before plunging into the water.

"I've seen my share of rollovers," said Grabow, who has about 14 years of experience with the State Patrol. "I've had some wild ones, but I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

After radioing dispatch for assistance, Grabow sprang into action. He waded out to the car, which was in water chest-deep - he said he didn't notice just how cold the water was until the incident was over. But he couldn't remove the driver because the car's doors were still locked.

After Grabow was able to push the still-buoyant car closer to shore, another trooper - Halder - arrived to help. They had to break the rear driver's side window to open the door and get the driver out.

Two other motorists, including Jackson, also stopped and offered their assistance.

"I can't take all the credit. It was definitely a team effort," Grabow said.

The 27-year-old driver, from out of state, drifted off the road after suffering an epileptic seizure. She was taken to a hospital and recovered.

Grabow said he was thankful that everything worked out OK.

"That's the thing about this job, about being a state trooper," he said. "You travel some great distances, and you never know what you're going to come across."

Each year, the patrol honors citizens, members of other law enforcement agencies, troopers and State Patrol employees who perform life-saving acts, excel in a crisis, or help to ensure safer Minnesota roads.

"We honor these people for their heroic actions their drive to help someone in need, and their efforts to keep people safe," said Colonel Kevin Daly, chief of the State Patrol.


Other recipients of the State Patrol Life Saving Award included:

• State Patrol Sergeant Kevin Vacura who saved two people in five months in Red Wing. On September 19, 2011, Vacura responded to a crash involving a bicyclist and a vehicle. The victim refused medical attention. As he talked to the man, Vacura noticed the injured bicyclist became confused.

He transported the man to the hospital, where doctors discovered the victim had bleeding on his brain. He was treated for his injuries and survived.

On April 21, 2012, Vacura responded to a report of a non-breathing passenger in a vehicle traveling on Highway 61. He used his AED to shock the woman's heart and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The woman was transported to a local hospital where she was stabilized.

• Lieutenant Joe Dwyer was patrolling on Highway 169 in Mille Lacs County on May 19, 2011 when he was nearly struck by a wrong-way driver.

Dwyer immediately turned around and activated his emergency lights. He witnessed the vehicle crash head-on into another vehicle. At the crash scene, Dwyer held the driver's head in place and opened his airway until paramedics arrived to transport the victim to a local hospital.

The State Patrol also honored Sergeant David Anderson as the 2011 Trooper of the Year. The 32-year patrol veteran received the honor for his commitment to traffic safety and his dedication to the mission of the State Patrol and the people it serves.

Throughout his career, Anderson served the agency in many roles including crash reconstruction specialist, academy staff trooper, and expert in defensive tactics, standardized field sobriety and radar use. Anderson will retire in September.

The State Patrol top DWI enforcer in 2011 was Trooper Mark Hibbard of the West Metro District. Hibbard arrested 242 impaired drivers in 2011.

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Sam Benshoof with Forum Communications Company contributed to this story.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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