Thomas Rush saw trouble brewing as he drove on through Linwood Township Tuesday morning. Just 50 feet ahead of him a pickup started veering over the centerline as a SUV from the opposite direction approached.
He pulled onto the shoulder to give the SUV an escape route, but the two vehicles collided head-on in the middle of the two-lane Anoka County road. The pickup started on fire.
He quickly called 911, then ran to the SUV, but got no response from the driver. He turned to the burning pickup where another passerby had spotted a toddler strapped in a car seat in the back seat.
“She was crying, screaming and had blood on her face,” said Rush, 35, of Grandy, Minn. “I saw the flames, opened the door and pulled her out.”
He carried the 3-year-old to safety, then returned to the pickup. By then flames had overtaken the truck and he was unable to help the driver.
Rush, who has two children of his own, didn’t think twice about springing into action.
“It tugs at your heart,” he said. “If I were ever in that situation, I’d hope somebody would go for the child.”
Authorities on Wednesday identified the two people killed in the fiery wreck. They are Genie Ann Mohr, 73, of Columbus, and Curtis Durand, 64, of Mound.
Mohr was headed west in a pickup on the 20000 block of NE. Viking Blvd. around 8:47 a.m. when she crossed over the centerline and collided with an eastbound SUV driven by Durand. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.
Rush, who had taken the day off work, said he was heading back home dropping his son off at school when he saw the crash.
The girl suffered minor injuries, said Cmdr. Paul Sommer a spokesman for the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. The name of the child was not released, but was identified as Mohr’s great-granddaughter, officials said.
Authorities with the Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota State Patrol are investigating and will do a reconstruction of the crash, Sommer said.
Does Rush feel like a hero?
“I don’t know,” he said Tuesday evening. “I have not really had time to think about it.”