Sean Kehren’s mother is an emergency medical technician, so growing up he heard plenty of stories about the lives she saved. But when he arrived home on Mother’s Day, he had his own rescue story to share.
Kehren, a senior who will graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter later this month, pulled a 67-year-old woman from her car, which had crashed into a tree and caught fire Sunday morning on Interstate 35 just north of Hinckley, Minn.
Flying high from being selected to be a national delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the Eighth Congressional District convention in Duluth the night before, Kehren was on his way to see his mother in Pine City when he saw a vehicle ahead of him drift into the ditch at 11:45 a.m. The woman, identified by the patrol as Marie Francoise Hupalo, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, tried to get back on the road but could not and crashed.
Kehren slammed on his brakes and sprinted to the driver’s side door. He noticed Hupalo was bloody and “looked beat up.” Then he felt something warm on his legs.
“Flames were coming from the bottom of the car, and I said, ‘We need to get you out of here,’ ” he recalled Tuesday. “I frantically tried to get her out but she slipped out of my hands.”
By then two others who had stopped, Elissa and Josh Schnell, helped drag Hupalo, who was clutching a pink iPad, to safety, Kehren said. Seconds later, Hupalo’s 2008 Dodge Nitro burst into flames, and everything else in her car went with it.
Kehren held Hupalo’s hand, used his phone to call the injured woman’s relatives and then accompanied her to Pine Medical Center in Sandstone.
Just before Hupalo was later airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, she said, “Thank you that God and you were there.”
Although he is considering a career in political journalism after graduation, Kehren said it was his mother’s EMT work that prompted him to stop.
“She is the reason I slowed down. She would have done the same thing,” he said. “She taught me CPR, but thankfully I didn’t have to use it. Anybody who values human life would have done the same thing.”
State Patrol Sgt. Neil Dickenson said Kehren’s action and those of the Schnells “all played a vital role in saving Marie Hupalo’s life by getting her out of the burning vehicle.”
Kehren said he exchanged phone numbers with Hupalo and hopes to hear from her when she is released from the hospital. She is expected to recover, the patrol said.
With his rescue mission complete, Kehren made it to Mother’s Day in Pine City. Asked if he gave his mom a huge hug, “You’re damn straight I did.”