GLENCOE (WCCO) — In McLeod County, the course of two families’ lives is now changed forever because of a hidden danger along a Minnesota country road.
Over the weekend, a snow covered drainage ditch was the site of two snowmobile crashes in two days, one left a Glencoe man dead while the other left a Lester Prairie man in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.
On Sunday, 44-year-old Brian Gatz of Lester Prairie crashed his snowmobile when riding with friends along Dairy Road north of 90th Street, southeast of Glencoe. He was airlifted to HCMC, where his family says he is in the ICU with spinal injuries and is partially paralyzed.
“The doctors said he was near dead, it is just a miracle he survived,” said his mother Connie Gatz, of Lester Prairie. “It’s hard when you see him just lay there, a mother shouldn’t have to see their son that way.”
McLeod County Sheriff’s investigators rushed to the same spot the next day, where tragedy struck yet again.
Trent Ondrachek, 26, of Glenccoe was out riding with his younger brother Tanner, and investigators suspect they were following Brian Gatz’s fresh snowmobile tracks when they hit the same spot.
Tanner escaped with minor injuries, but authorities believe his snowmobile struck Trent, who died later at the hospital from severe internal injuries.
“He was only 26, just turned 26, he had his whole life in front of him,” said close family friend Kris Sandal, who desrcibes Trent as a vibrant young man who lit up a room and always had a smile. Sandal said he leaves behind his wife of two years, but even more tragic, they were days away from expecting their first child.
“Can you imagine, you are having your first baby, then you have to bury your husband and give birth,” said Sandal. “He will never be able to meet his baby, hold his baby. They are going to need a lot of love and support to get through this.”
Cautions signs and yellow tape now block off the drainage ditch and warn other snowmobilers of the same danger.
“But it doesn’t too much for the ones that were there first. Something should have been marked, I think,” said Connie Gatz, who says her son will face years of recovery.
McLeod County Sheriff Scott Rehmann says that often on rural roads, snow drifts over narrow and deep ditches, and he urges snowmobilers to stay on groomed trails.
Ondrachek will be laid to rest Thursday in Glencoe, where he has lived all his life.
A fund has been set up for Baby Ondrachek, his unborn child.
Donations can be mailed to:
c/o Security Bank & Trust Co.
735 11 Street East
Glencoe, MN 55336
WCCO-TV’s Lindsey Seavert Reports