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Meritorious Service Award goes to rescuers of toddler

Grandparents Paul and Cheri Claggett look on as Lauryn Claggett receives the "Saved by the Belt" award from South Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Alan Welsh Friday at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre in Mitchell. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)1 / 3
From left, Corey Ramold, Brandon Sandoz, Jacob Hohn and Abby Albin, stand before the audience at Pepsi-Cola Theatre Friday in Mitchell, prior to receiving their award from the South Dakota Highway Patrol for meritorious service. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)2 / 3
Corey Ramold, left, and Brandon Sandoz pose for photos with Lauryn Claggett, the toddler they helped rescue from a crashed vehicle before it caught fire last September south of Mitchell. (Marcus Traxler/Republic) 3 / 3

The heroic efforts of three Mitchell Technical Institute students and an area farmer were recognized Friday, in saving a 2-year-old child from a deadly crash last September in Mitchell.

Brandon Sandoz, Abby Albin and Corey Ramold and area farmer Jacob Hohn were honored by South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Craig Price with the Superintendent's' Award for Meritorious Service. In addition, Lauryn Claggett, the toddler saved in the crash, was honored with the Highway Patrol's "Saved by the Belt" award.

Claggett was secured in a child safety seat when the crash occurred Sept. 25, 2013, five miles south of Mitchell on State Highway 37.

Claggett's mother, Sara Ann Claggett, 23, of Tripp, and Donald Julius Geidel, 82, of Dimock, were driving the two vehicles involved; both died in the head-on crash. On Friday, Hohn and the students were affectionate with Lauryn Claggett as they posed for photos with her and her grandparents, Paul and Cheri Claggett, after the ceremony.

"It's really about the kids," said Paul Claggett. "It's all about the people who were there and saved Lauryn."

Sandoz and Albin ran toward the wreck immediately; the three students in the car were about 200 yards behind the crash when it occurred. They pulled Lauryn Claggett from the car seat, and after leaking gas, the vehicle soon went up in flames.

Ramold went to work on the truck driven by Geidel. Hohn was working in a nearby corn field, and along with Sandoz, used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Hohn used his pickup truck and a chain to pull away Geidel's truck from the burning van and into the ditch. The three pulled Geidel before the truck caught on fire but could not revive him after attempting CPR.

Sandoz said Friday they didn't think about what was going on when the accident occurred.

"We just acted," he recalled.

Lauryn Claggett suffered multiple broken bones from the crash, including a broken pelvis, leg and arm.

Price told the audience that he has been in the position for three-and-a-half years and has awarded the Meritorious Service honor one other time.

"I can't tell you how special this is and how much of an honor it is for us to be here presenting this award today," he said. "This type of thing doesn't happen all the time. And there's not very many opportunities for the public to intervene and do the right thing when they have the chance."

The ceremony was held in collaboration with MTI's annual awards presentation. A full listing of school awards will run in a later edition of The Daily Republic.