WATCH NOW: Student rescues woman before van erupts in flames
SANDSTONE, Minn. -- A 21-year-old Gustavus Adolphus College student came to the rescue of a Canadian woman just in the nick of time in a fiery crash on Interstate 35 near Sandstone on Mother’s Day.
Sean Kehren, who was on his way to visit his mom in Pine City, said he was driving through Pine County north of the Twin Cities on Sunday when he saw a van go in and out of a ditch with dust flying.
The van, that had been going about 65 mph, ended up back into the ditch, landing in a row of pine trees.
Kehren and another couple quickly stopped along the interstate and sprinted to the van. The student said he asked the driver -- Marie Francoise Hupalo, 67, of Thunder Bay, Ontario -- if she was OK.
“I guess it was kind of a stupid question,” Kehren said as he saw blood dripping down her face and on her hands. She also said her knee was injured.
Then the even more frightening part came as he looked down and saw flames coming out of the bottom of the van.
Telling her she needed to get out of the vehicle immediately, he said he and the other couple -- Elissa and Josh Schnell of Fridley -- got her out and then dragged her through the ditch to the side of the interstate.
“I would say 45 seconds later the van was completely in flames,” Kehren said.
While others called 911, he stayed with Hupalo -- holding her hand and asking her if she wanted him to stay with her.
Hupalo was taken to the nearby Pine City Medical Center and then airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in the Twin Cities.
Kehren said he stopped by the Pine City hospital and talked to her before she was whisked away.
“She told me thank you and that I saved her life. She also said, ‘God and you were on my side today,’” Kehren said.
The Minnesota State Patrol said in a statement that they believe that Kehren and the Schnells played a vital role in saving Hupalo’s life by getting her out of the burning vehicle.
The Hupalo family told the patrol they wished to thank everyone who was involved in the rescue, especially the people who helped get her out of the vehicle -- and asked for privacy as she recovers.
For Kehren, who also said he was selected the night before to be a national delegate to the Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia and will graduate May 29 with a degree in philosophy, it’s been a eventful time -- to say the least.