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Students, farmer given Meritorious Service Award for saving toddler after crash

MITCHELL Three Mitchell college students and an area farmer will receive a South Dakota Highway Patrol’s Superintendent’s Award for Meritorious Service for heroic actions following a fatal crash last September near Mitchell.

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Abby Albin, Corey Ramold and Brandon Sandoz, college students in Mitchell, and Jacob Hohn, a farmer from the Mitchell area, were the first to arrive at the scene of a fatal crash near Mitchell on Sept. 25, 2013.

A van driven by Sara Claggett collided head-on with a pick-up truck driven by Donald Geidel. Claggett’s 2-year-old daughter was in a child safety seat in the back of her van. When the three college student’s arrived a few seconds after the crash, they determined both drivers were seriously injured and rushed to check on them. Sandoz and Albin checked on the van with the 2-year-old toddler and noticed smoke and gas leaking from it. Not thinking of their own safety, they removed the toddler and Albin stayed with her a safe distance from the crash as the van caught fire.

Sandoz went to the truck to assist Ramold. They made contact with Hohn who was working in a cornfield next to the scene and were able to locate a fire extinguisher to extinguish flames. The three of them hooked a chain to Hohn’s pick-up truck and separated Geidel’s truck from the burning van. After pulling the truck into the ditch, they used the chain to pull Geidel’s door open and removed him from the truck moments before it, too, caught on fire. CPR was attempted on Geidel, but he was not revived. Both Claggett and Geidel died in the crash. The toddler was saved.

“There is no doubt that the quick and selfless actions of these individuals saved the toddler’s life,” Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, said. “Their response to this traumatic scene is heroic.”

 In addition to the Superintendent’s Award for Meritorious Service, the 2-year-old toddler will be presented with the Highway Patrol “Saved by the Belt’’ award.

The award ceremony was held Friday morning, May 9, at the Pepsi Theatre in Mitchell.