A driver in the midst of a seizure rolled through a red light at a well-traveled Eagan intersection and kept going until three people — one of them chasing on foot — risked their safety to rescue her.
The daring acts on behalf of the ailing 57-year-old woman quickly unfolded late Tuesday afternoon near Cliff and Rahncliff roads, said police spokesman Aaron Machtemes.
Tamara M. Otool's car, heading south on Rahncliff, went through the red light and continued on at just a few miles per hour.
A man driving a box truck sitting at the intersection followed the car. Meanwhile, another driver also saw the vehicle go through the light, prompting him to park in the Walgreen drugstore lot and give chase on foot.
"I could tell that she was having a medical condition," said Richard Gilson, 49, of Eagan. "I tried to knock on the window to get her attention. Then I tried to open up all the doors, and of course, they were locked."
Gilson said all of his efforts were for naught as he followed the car at a "fast walking pace" for at least 1½ blocks.
Then along came the man in the box truck heading the other way and did what needed doing, Gilson said.
The truck driver "turned his vehicle around and decided to hit the side of the [woman's] vehicle to get it to stop," Gilson said.
Gilson said he was worried that if the car had kept going "she was going to go right into that pond" just a short distance down the road. "I couldn't get a window broken, and I was tired," he said.
The truck driver, identified by police as 65-year-old Daniel Heim of Ham Lake, said he saw Otool's car, a four-door sedan, pull in front of him. He made a U-turn and pulled alongside her, then used his truck to stop her car and hold it in place. Otool's car was picking up speed as it moved, he said, and he later learned that it could have gone into the swamp nearby.
He said he "could see a guy pounding on the passenger side window ... trying to break it" and "could see the lady in the car was totally unresponsive.
"Her head was kind of laying back and off the side," Heim said. "It was pretty obvious she wasn't real coherent."
Heim pulled a piece of steel from his box and smashed out the rear window so they could unlock the doors and put the car in park.
That allowed Gilson and a third person to get to the woman and try to rouse her.
"She responded for about 20 seconds, then went back into her medical condition and stopped responding," Gilson said. It was no more than another moment before emergency personnel arrived, took over and got the woman to a hospital.
As of Wednesday morning, Otool was resting at her Eagan home, "in good spirits [and] grateful" for what the two men did to keep her from further trouble, Machtemes said.
In a statement, Otool said she was able to thank Gilson and Heim on Wednesday for their actions.
"I've never experienced anything like this so they were able to provide helpful information," she said. "I am extremely grateful for their intervention and for the assistance of the police and paramedics."
Machtemes lauded the men for calling 911 — the standard recommendation for such a situation.
"What the people did was what they thought was the best thing to do at the time," Machtemes said. " ... Luckily nobody got hurt."
Police said they will nominate Gilson and Heim for the department's outstanding citizen award.
Heim said he has "no experience running into vehicles intentionally." He was just in the right place at the right time. He did go back to work, he said, but it was difficult because of the adrenaline rush the incident created.
"I'd do it again," he said. "If the opportunity arises, I'd do it again."
Staff writer Pat Pheifer contributed to this report.