Reporting Bill Hudson
FOLEY, Minn. (WCCO) – A mother and her 4-year-old daughter were rescued after the car they were in rolled and landed on its roof in a Benton County creek.
One look at Gretchen Wolbeck’s mud-filled and smashed Saturn automobile and you can only imagine a young mother’s panic and fear.
Wolbeck, 26, and her daughter, Haley, were on their way to day care Tuesday morning when their car slid out of control and down into an ice-covered ditch.
“I hurried up and got myself unbuckled and then jumped in the backseat and she was underwater,” said Wolbeck.
Haley was buckled into a booster chair in the rear seat of the car. Because the car settled on its roof in waist-deep water, her daughter’s head was underwater. Making matters worse, the accident happened around 6:30 a.m., and along with the icy water, pitch black darkness filled the car’s interior.
Overcome with emotion, Wolbeck said, “it felt like a long time, but it was probably just a matter of seconds before I was in the back seat getting her and he was at the window. I could hear him trying to smash it!”
Struggling to release Haley from her booster seat, the mother and daughter remained trapped by car doors that wouldn’t open. It was at that instant, Wolbeck recalled, that a Good Samaritan used a 2×4 piece of lumber to smash the passenger door window and pulled Gretchen and Haley to safety.
“I am so thankful to be alive and that my little girl is here, and thankful for the man that stopped,” Wolbeck said.
A second man joined in the rescue and helped comfort the two while waiting for firefighters and sheriff’s deputies to arrive on the scene. He is identified as 21-year-old Craig Harden of rural Rice.
“He must have seen me go in, otherwise, I don’t think he or anyone else would have seen us,” said Wolbeck.
Shaken and bruised, but alive, Gretchen and Haley are back in the warmth and comfort of their home. Gretchen’s husband was working out of town at the time of the accident and received the news that his wife and daughter were being cared for at the St. Cloud hospital.
The Benton County Sheriff’s office said the other Good Samaritan left the scene before investigators could thank him and get his name.
Wolbeck said she hopes in the days ahead the person who stopped to give aid will come forward, so she can give him the proper and heartfelt thanks that a true hero deserves.
“Thank you so much, I can’t say how thankful I am,” a teary-eyed Wolbeck said.