Teamwork between a trapped 16-year-old girl and law enforcement helped save her from serious injury when rains and winds swept the Southern Red River Valley Monday, June 7.
Rich Schock, fire chief for Kindred, North Dakota, declined to further identify the girl beyond saying she was a resident of the area. He did praise her and a team of approximately 14 emergency responders for remaining calm and responsible as safety was restored at the scene.
The girl was trapped in a damaged car she had been driving on County Road 3, south of Highway 46 in Richland County, North Dakota. At or about 10 p.m. Monday, a power line came down, disabling the car and flinging it backwards.
Winds were in excess of 105 miles per hour at the storm’s peak, Schock said. Once emergency responders reached the scene, the storm had diminished to an event with moderate rains. There was still the downed power line and potentially charged vicinity to resolve.
“The biggest issue we had was the power lines she was in contact with,” Schock said. “These were large transmission lines. I don’t know what the diameter was, but (they) took down Cass County’s electrical lines.”
The girl’s car was unable to be driven away. She risked electrocution if she attempted an escape. Ultimately, she remained in the vehicle for several hours, or until approximately 1 a.m. Tuesday, June 8.
“She stayed put and maintained calm,” Schock said. “One-hundred percent of the time, if you do that, cool heads will prevail. It is a scary situation to be in.”
Communication was limited. The girl’s cell phone battery died shortly after she called for help, according to Schock and Richland County Emergency Manager Brett Lambrecht. The car had a partially open window that the girl and Schock’s team used for information.
“Once Cass tried to re-energize their lines to bring back power to their community, it would energize both the lines and the roadway,” Schock said.
The emergency responders and girl waited for a power company technician from Grand Forks, North Dakota, Lambrecht said. While Schock’s team assessed the scene, the girl was unable to directly contact her family.
“We had Walcott fire on the south side — we didn’t know how far the lines went down,” Schock said. “Her dad was actually on the south side, too. We also maintained our visual positions for her to feel comfortable.”
The girl held herself together despite being cold and in a scary situation, Schock said. She was thankful for the rescue, and law enforcement reassured her that she did everything right.
“All too often, you don’t get a good response (in similar situations),” Schock said.
Schock’s team of 12 emergency responders were all volunteers from Kindred and Walcott, North Dakota. There was also one law enforcement officer each from Cass and Richland counties.
“We started out at about 10:30 or 11 p.m. and by the time we actually got home, it was about 4 a.m.,” Schock said. “The Kindred Fire Department responded to Richland County’s call.”
Schock estimates that Kindred emergency staff responded to nine total calls throughout Monday night. They included issues like burning trees and downed power lines, normal effects of a strong wind event.
“We actually came from a semi that had turned over on the interstate, as part of a mutual aid with Horace’s fire department,” Schock said. “I can’t say enough for all of our local departments. We complement each other and work well together. We’ve got pride in our small towns.”
Schock is also proud of his team.
“Everyone just remained super-calm and we kept her safe,” he said.