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Why Safety Matters - The Stories

At the NDSC, we are dedicated to providing high quality safety training and reaching as many people as possible because we KNOW it makes a difference. The stats prove it and the stories illustrate the lasting impact of a life lost or a life saved.

Safety is about keeping families whole.

 It’s the Little Things (Tom's Story)

Marlowe Ann Regan was happy as a baby, child, and young adult. According to her dad, Tom, she was ebullient – she could walk into a room and liven up the place. She had a great, contagious laugh and a real good giggle… Tom can still hear her giggle in his head.

Marlowe ImageTom and Patti Regan lost Marlowe, their oldest daughter, in a single-car crash in May 2006. Marlowe was 21 and worked at Sykes while living in Minot with her boyfriend, Michael. The day she died was her brother Walt’s 19th birthday. Marlowe was traveling from Minot to Bismarck to celebrate his birthday with the whole Regan family.  

“We were washing Patti’s van in the driveway and we wondered why Marlowe wasn’t there yet,” Tom remembered. “It was getting kind of late and all of a sudden we saw a sheriff’s car pull up.” When Chaplain Dan Sweeney got out, Tom thought Dan was just stopping to say hello since they were friends. But then he saw a deputy sheriff was with him. “They walked up to us, and I had an inkling something was wrong. Maybe it was the look on his face. I thought…‘oh shit.’”  

“Dan asked if our kids were home and asked us to gather the family. He got right to the point, asking us if our daughter was on her way here, if she owned certain clothing, and drove an SUV,” Tom recalls. “Then, he told us that she had died on the highway south of Max. It was the worst day of my life.”  

Tom has wondered many times since that day, 10 years ago, what caused Marlowe to crash. If her boyfriend had been with her, would it have been prevented? Did a deer or rabbit cross the road in front of her causing her to swerve? Was there a wind gust? Did she glance down at her phone and get too close to the edge of the road? Was it just a little thing?  

“As parents, we’re supposed to be protectors. When this happens, you feel like you should have protected her,” Tom said.   In the accident recreation, Marlowe had not been speeding, the weather was perfect and she was buckled in. The SUV she was driving rolled twice and ended up in the north bound lane facing north. The driver’s door had popped open, at which point Marlowe was partially ejected and crushed.  

Mile Marker 170 Image“We will never really know what happened, but my theory is distracted driving,” said Tom. Marlowe loved to listen to music at full volume which meant she could not hear her phone ring, and she was in the habit of glancing at it to check for calls. “When I meet up with her in heaven, I’m going to ask her ‘what the hell happened?’”  

Two months after Marlowe’s death, Tom visited mile marker 170 where her vehicle was originally found. “I held tiny pieces of the diced glass from the car and wondered why I was holding these things like they were relics – like they were important,” remembers Tom. “The road is a bit winding and there was virtually no shoulder in that area south of Max. If you got distracted and went over the edge, you would feel like you dropped off a curb and likely overcorrect.”  

Tom later testified before the highway committee at the North Dakota legislature, asking them to improve that stretch of highway. Since then, a shoulder has been added to both sides of the highway near Max.  

Tom believes God had nothing to do with Marlowe’s crash. He says he is a happy person pretty naturally and totally skipped the angry stage. “I knew it was just a bad deal. It had to be just a little thing that caused it,” he believes.  

Marlowe enjoyed coloring, painting, and drawing. Her mother, Patti, has a degree in commercial art and taught art at home for a while. Marlowe had quite a portfolio and especially enjoyed drawing actors and musicians. Jim Morrison was Marlowe’s favorite subject to draw. “She was way into music and that’s something the three of us had in common,” said Tom. “Marlowe and I used to share a lot of music - always a singer/songwriter. She would say ‘Oh you have to hear this’ and we would listen to whomever she had discovered.”  

“After we lost her, we looked in her notebooks and sketchbooks, and thought when did this girl sleep?” Tom recalled. Marlowe had volumes and volumes of diaries, journals, and drawings.  

“In fact, she had just done a drawing of David Bowie and supposedly had it in the car with her because she wanted to show us. We scoured the landscape and the bushes near the crash site but never found it. That really hurt,” Tom said.  

Marlowe ImageThe week of Marlowe’s funeral, Tom felt the need to pull his family together and lift them up. She died on a Saturday and the family didn’t see her body until the following Wednesday, two days before the funeral. Tom, a recovering alcoholic, knew he had to draw on The 12 Promises of AA to help himself and his family get through this tragedy. One of the promises is that you will instinctively know how to handle situations that used to baffle you.  

“By the grace of God, I had to prepare my family,” said Tom. “For the funeral, I remember telling them, ‘We have to do this with as much dignity and honor as we can muster. We are going to see Marlowe’s remains but she is not really here.’ The life was out of her and it helped for me to tell my family that.”  

The song “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton was sung at the funeral. It is a song Clapton wrote about losing his 4-year-old son. “It was huge,” Tom reflected as he choked back tears. “The community buoyed us up. I can’t believe who all came out to support us. Community had so much to do with getting us through – so important in tragedy and trauma.”  

As time has passed, Tom said he and Patti still feel cheated. They were looking forward to going to Marlowe’s wedding and seeing what kind of mom she would have been. She and her boyfriend were talking about getting engaged that October. Visions of what she would have been like as a bride, or as a mother, hit especially hard when Marlowe’s childhood best friend, Lexi, got married. Tom and Patti attended the wedding and caught themselves thinking the maid of honor was missing - as it would have been Marlowe. They wish they would have had the chance to see her be married, to walk her down the aisle.  

Photo of Tom and Marlowe

Today, Tom is a different person. He says Marlowe’s death taught him what’s important and what’s real.  

“That loss gave me the courage to just totally shake up my life and live on a different plane – a spiritual plane,” he said. “I don’t have patience for fools anymore. I only hang around with people who bring me up and not bring me down. You have to hang with winners, in recovery, as misery loves company.”  

“Patti and I asked ourselves ‘do you think we could ever go through this again if one of our other kids were to be killed?’ It is one day at a time. And sometimes one minute at a time. The answer is, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Tom said. “Grief is indeed the price of love.”


 Kevin and Danielle Trowbridge

Troy Delzer had just followed his wife Terri up three flights of stairs and down a hallway to their daughter’s apartment door. As Terri was unlocking the door she heard a thump and turned to find Troy lying on the floor, unconscious. He was not breathing, his heart was not beating. Terri began yelling for help and Kevin Trowbridge came running down the hall. Kevin called 911, instructed another person to administer CPR, and stayed on the line with the 911 dispatcher relaying instructions throughout the ordeal. Kevin and his wife Danielle acted with speed and courage while remaining calm until EMT and fire rescue personnel arrived. Terri believes Kevin and Danielle’s heroic act helped save Troy’s life.


 Scott Parker (Wayne's Story)

Wayne Waller, 77, and his passenger, Mae Line, were traveling on Highway 2 north of Cloquet, MN, when Wayne lost consciousness and crashed his truck into some trees along the road. Three people stopped to help, pulling Wayne from one of the truck’s windows and beginning CPR. In the meantime, State Patrol Sgt. Scott Parker arrived and raced to his squad car to grab his automated external defibrillator. Using the AED, Scott shocked Wayne and continued CPR until paramedics arrived. The quick actions of Trooper Parker and the people who stopped to help, saved Wayne’s life.


 Breanna Nehl and Alyssa Dollinger

Breanna Nehl and Alyssa Dollinger were lifeguards on duty at Hillside Aquatic Complex this past summer. As Breanna approached Alyssa to change lifeguarding stations, Alyssa was watching a young boy, and Alyssa questions, in her mind, his swimming ability. As they change positions at that lifeguarding station, Alyssa alerts Breanna to this. It became apparent that the boy needed assistance. Breanna followed safety protocols, jumped in, brought the boy to the pool deck, blew her whistle three times to signal an emergency and to alert her fellow lifeguards. The boy was unconscious. She administered two rescue breaths, started compressions and he responded. Other lifeguards on duty followed cleared the pool. A woman who happened to be at the pool came forward and identified herself as a first responder and assisted Breanna. Another lifeguard on duty called 911, and within minutes, an ambulance arrived and transported the boy to the hospital. He was released later that evening.


 Joel Valadez

Joel Valadez took a CPR/AED/First Aid class in high school and was able to use the skills he learned to save his sister’s life. Joel’s mom, Nancy, awoke to her 17-year-old daughter suffocating. She was using her nebulizer machine but was unable to hold it and her lips were purple. Nancy called 911 but didn’t know what to do next. That’s when 15-year-old Joel put her on a flat surface, started talking to her to see if she could talk back and began doing chest compressions. Nancy says “If it wasn’t for him, my daughter wouldn’t be here today.”


 Craig Wilhelm

When you meet Craig Wilhelm, you see a tall, slim guy who is physically fit. He doesn’t look 53. You find out he’s a guy who has been physically active his entire life.

“He’s a picture of health,” says his wife, Pam.

Which is why it was shocking that the Bismarck father of two had two episodes – just four months apart – where he went into cardiac arrest.

“Everyone was in shock,” Pam said. “There was no warning … never saw it coming.”

Craig played league basketball, as well as hitting the YMCA two to three times a week for noon ball. He loves basketball. But on a December day in 2015, Craig found himself on the gym floor fighting for his life.

“I played one game on one court and then started a game on the other court,” he said. “I got light headed and dizzy, and fell over. When I woke up I was in the hospital.”

What he missed was a lot of quick thinking and fast action by friends who were playing basketball that day. After realizing something was terribly wrong, an off-duty fireman started chest compressions. Another friend made a sprint for an automated external defibrillator (AED). Craig flatlined twice and was revived both times by the AED. He flatlined two more times in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“Starting chest compressions immediately and getting the AED quickly … I think doing all that so quickly saved his life,” Pam said.

Craig spent four days in the hospital and was put through a gamut of tests, but doctors couldn’t put a finger on the cause; there appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary and Craig had no blockage.

“They told us we had two options; we could do nothing or implant a defib,” he said. “We chose the defib and it’s a good thing we did.”

Four months (April 2016) after he collapsed at the YMCA gym, Craig put his implant to the test.

“I was playing basketball, same place, same time … I got dizzy again and fell over,” he said. “I went into cardiac arrest again.”

The same friend who ran for the AED four months earlier was on the court again that day and, even though he knew Craig had the defibrillator implant, made a run for the AED.

“He didn’t know if the implant would work,” Craig said. “But it kicked in and worked.”

There was no ambulance ride this time, but Craig cracked open the back of his head when he fell, so another trip to the emergency room was necessary.

Pam was already feeling angst about Craig’s return to the basketball court, so a wave of emotions ran over her when she got the call about his return trip to the ER.

“They told me that when he woke up he sat up right away and said, ‘what’s up?’ He wrapped a towel around his head and drove to the ER himself,” Pam said. “He called me and told me he hit his head and was getting checked out. He didn’t tell me he went into cardiac arrest again.”

They both knew something wasn’t right when Craig had a second episode, so they went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Over an eight-hour surgery, the doctor did 41 cardiac ablations. The procedure is used to scar or destroy tissues in the heart that allow incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm. Performing 41 ablations indicated some serious issues.

“His case is pretty rare. The best they can figure out is that his heart had too much of an adrenaline rush,” Pam said. “So, he can’t play basketball anymore.”

Craig said he can still work out and lift weights. He just has to avoid exercise of the competitive nature.

“It’s still hard not to play,” he said.

Basketball has been a big part of the family forever. His son Jordan played basketball at the University of Mary in Bismarck and is a coach at Bismarck High School. Being able to be there for his family, though, is more important.

“It makes you appreciate everything more,” Pam said.

The Wilhelm’s daughter Alexis got married in September. Pam and Craig are both thankful that he was around to walk her down the aisle.

And Jordan told his dad he wants him around to see his grandchildren.

“We sold the Harley, we’re looking to get a boat,” Pam said. “We’re just looking to slow things down more and enjoy.”


 Ryan T. Nelson

Matt Heisler was home alone when a fire started. His roommate, Ryan Nelson, arrived at the home and saw heavy smoke through the window. He ran to the back of the house and broke Matt’s bedroom window to enter the house. When he couldn’t find him he went back to the front door and entered again, searching for Matt through heavy smoke on his hands and knees, until he found him. Ryan carried Matt out and performed CPR until his friend’s heart started beating again. Matt’s heart stopped again once the two arrived at the Grand Forks hospital where Heisler was then flown to a hospital in Minneapolis. Matt did not survive but his family is grateful they had the chance to say good bye and fulfill Matt’s wish to help others through organ donation.


 Leland Olds Station First Response Team

Jerry Sorenson was at the Leland Olds Station to deliver fuel oil when he stumbled back, hit his head, became unconscious and was not breathing. Three members of the First Response Team assessed Jerry who quickly became a high-priority patient – he was bleeding from his mouth and head and had no pulse. Others from the First Response Team arrived bringing an AED and medical supplies. One team member provided rescue breaths while another started chest compressions. The team prepped Jerry for a shock administered by an AED. An oral airway was inserted and additional team members stepped in to continue chest compressions and take over rescue breathing. Jerry was fitted with a c-collar and placed onto a back board prior to transportation to the hospital. The team was told he survived and the outlook was promising.

The Leland Olds Station First Response Team includes

· Bryce Harring
· Amanda Huntimer
· Todd Isaak
· Tracy Johnson
· Kasey Lesmann
· James Porter
· Davin Renner
· Jake Schmidt
· Kris Schmidt
· Murray Snyder


 David Michael Jensen

David Jensen had pulled over to the side of the road near Grand Forks, with his flashers on, when a driver failed to negotiate a curve and ran head-on into David’s vehicle. After the crash, the other driver’s vehicle started on fire.

David rushed over to the other vehicle and noticed an unconscious female. David was able to get the driver’s door open, unbuckle the female, and pull her away from the burning vehicle. Shortly after David pulled the female to safety the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames. By the time the fire department was able to put the fire out, the vehicle was burned down to the metal frame of the vehicle.

Both David and the other driver were transported to a local hospital. Had David not acted as quickly as he did, the other driver likely would not be here today.


 Jean Brekhus and Amy Roberts

In January 2014, Jean Brekhus’ husband suddenly slumped over in the passenger seat of the car she was driving, and was unresponsive. Jean pulled over on one of the busiest streets in Minot. Although she didn’t think she could do it, she drug him out of the car and onto the sidewalk where she started compressions.  It was a below zero day... 

In the meantime, Amy Roberts had just left Minot State campus and was traveling on Broadway, a route she rarely takes. She stopped because she saw a woman giving chest compressions to a man lying on the frigid sidewalk. She ran down the slippery hill, identified herself as a nurse to Jean and took over doing the compressions until paramedics and an ambulance arrived.

When Amy was interviewed later she said she had never done compressions on a real person before because she is a labor and delivery nurse. But she had taken CPR numerous times so she automatically knew what to do.

Jean’s husband recovered from a heart attack and a stroke and has returned to work in his hometown of Kenmare. Quick thinking by both women and CPR saved his life.


 Trooper Grant Lonski (Mertie's Story)

On the snowy icy afternoon of November 5, Mertie Kurtti drove from her rural Rocklake home to attend a church meeting when her car went into a spin, slipped off the highway just a few miles north of Churches Ferry, and plunged down a steep embankment.

Mertie, who is 81 years old, couldn’t free herself from the car as ice-cold water rushed in. She used her cell phone several times to call for help as the water rose above her shoulders.

Trooper Grant Lonski closed in to about 10 miles away when Merti’s phone lost power, but he spotted where her car had left the highway.  He couldn’t see Merti’s car until he began running down the steep embankment.  Wading through the icy water, he was able to open the driver’s side door, unbuckle Merti and carry her to safety.  An ambulance crew arrived and transported Merti to Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake, for treatment of hypothermia.

Mertie credits Trooper Lonski with saving her life.


 Allison Fuchs

Two 4-year-old boys were playing at the Days Inn pool in Fargo, when they went under. Fast –acting daycare employees and bystanders pulled them from the water and called 911.

Allison Fuchs, a nurse at Sanford Health, was at the hotel water park with her family when the first little boy was pulled from the pool unresponsive. She performed CPR on him and was able to revive him. As she was working with the first child, another 4 year old boy was pulled from the pool so she performed CPR on him, as well, successfully resuscitating him.

Both boys were taken by ambulance to a Fargo Hospital with full recoveries expected.

When interviewed about the experience, Allison said, "I'm thankful that today my life had a purpose. I was at the right place at the right time and I'm glad I was able to help.”


 Aevenia Crew

Austin Proulx, Billy Lincoln, Devin Heisler, Heath Tessin, Jason Hall, Steve Schultz

In mid-September an Aevenia crew was setting poles for a transmission line upgrade north of Ross when a pickup swerved across the gravel road and rolled in front of the crew. Crew members found the driver partially ejected and pinned, with the rear of the cab across his midsection. Crew Superintendent Steve Schultz immediately called 911 and then directed his crew to position the digger derrick truck to lift the vehicle off the victim. At that point a North Dakota State Patrol unit arrived on the scene, and the officer directed the crew as they lifted the vehicle.

As soon as they lifted the pickup the victim gasped for air, and his skin color began to normalize. The crew held the damaged vehicle in place while they waited for an ambulance and rescue squad, who were detained by a train. Everything the crew did - from the 911 call, to setting up the truck, to working with the officer - was textbook. The victim was airlifted to a hospital and survived, largely through the Aevenia crew's rescue efforts.

 Jeff Forsberg

In November of 2013, a BNI heavy equipment operator became pinched between the blade of a stuck bulldozer and the steel cable which was being used to pull the machine out. The force of the cable crushed the victim’s femur and pelvis. It also severed the femoral artery resulting in life-threating hemorrhaging.

Although Jeff Forsberg was not in the vicinity of the incident, he was notified immediately and asked to respond. Jeff responded as requested and arrived on the scene within 7 minutes. During those 7 minutes Jeff instructed another manager to initiate a 911 call and the Oliver County EMS process was set in motion. Upon arriving at the scene Jeff witnessed signs of severe trauma and internal bleeding in the victim. He immediately called EMS and requested a Metro Ambulance Intercept to assist the Oliver County Ambulance which was already enroute. This decision reduced the Metro response time by 10-15 minutes which very well may have been the difference between life and death.

Even though there was very little that Jeff could do for the victim medically, he calmed and comforted him while the two of them waited for the ambulance.

The victim arrived at Sanford Medical Center where he immediately went into surgery. He would spend the next 12 days in a medically induced coma. On day 8 he was air transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center where his right leg was ultimately amputated slightly below the hip socket. After 27 days of recovery he was transported to Mandan where he would spend the next 25 days in rehabilitation. During each of these hospital stays Jeff would visit and offer comfort and support.

One full year after the incident, John Renaud returned to work at BNI. He currently works as an assistant to the Safety Director, Jeff Forsberg - alongside the man who he credits with saving his life. The two men have become friends and Jeff continues to be a source of support for John as he continues his rehabilitation.

Kristin Wilson
Business Development Director
701-223-6372 (office)
800-932-8890 (toll free)
701-751-6115 (direct)
701-223-0087 (fax)