Airborne deer slams unlucky jogger
Sara Betzler was jogging on Sunday morning when she was hit by a flying deer.
She didn't know it was a deer at first. Betzler, 30, was about a half-mile north of Palisade Head on Minnesota Highway 61 and about a mile from home, jogging south on the northbound shoulder of the road in falling snow when she was flung into the ditch. It was sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m.
"All of a sudden I was just in the ditch, and I didn't know why," Betzler said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "I jumped up on my feet, and I looked to my right and the truck was driving off; and it drove off so fast that I could not catch the license plate number. When I looked over to my left, there was a dead deer lying there, and that's when I realized, oh my gosh, I was hit by a deer and not by a car."
Betzler had almost finished a route of about
5½ miles that she jogs on weekends while her husband, Jason, is home to stay with their children, ages 2 and 4. She said she has been jogging there about three years without incident until Sunday.
She called her husband, who asked if he should come and get her. She felt pain in her right shoulder and arm and two toes, but said she could walk home. She called 911 to report the incident, hoping someone might spot the southbound red Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that hit the deer. She's convinced the driver saw what happened.
"I remember trying to wave at that truck a little bit to say, 'Hey, you know, I was here, come help me,' but ... they just kept on driving," Betzler said, later adding: "That road there is so wide that there's no way he could have missed (seeing) me. He had to have seen me for about a half-mile at least, if not a mile. That's how straight and wide it is right there."
Betzler knows Lino and Nancy Rauzi, who live at that spot. Nancy Rauzi confirmed Betzler's account about the road. "It's a straight stretch of road ... and people do pick up a little speed," she said.
If the driver did see what happened, it was a criminal offense not to stop, said Sgt. Mark Baker, spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol.
"They need to stop, they need to report it and they need to render whatever aid they can," Baker said. "There could be criminal charges, especially in a personal injury case."
But outside of Betzler and the driver, there may be no witnesses.
"Neither one of us saw anything," Nancy Rauzi said. "All I remember is seeing the (dead) deer when I was going to church."
Betzler went to the medical clinic on Monday and was diagnosed with whiplash to her neck and bruising on her knees, hips and right arm. The doctor put her on a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory and told her not to jog for a while. She tried to get back on the treadmill Wednesday.
"They told me not to but I tried, and I can't jog yet," she said.
But Betzler is grateful nothing worse came of it.
"I'm thankful I wasn't killed," she said. "I'm thankful it wasn't a buck and stabbed me to death."
Baker, a State Patrol officer since 1984, said he has heard of some weird accidents involving deer, but he had never heard of a vehicle-hits-deer/deer-hits-jogger accident before. He doesn't advise against jogging along the highway, provided the joggers stay off the roadway and face traffic, as Betzler did. But with drivers traveling at 55 mph and sometimes distracted, it can be risky. "Is there a danger? Absolutely," he said.
As for Betzler, she has promised her family she won't jog along Highway 61 anymore. She'll do her jogging in Silver Bay and on bike trails.
Although she's still irate that the driver didn't stop, Betzler said she's able to laugh about the incident now, as are her friends.
"They're very happy I'm OK, but at the same time, they're like, 'What are the chances of being in that spot at that time?' " Betzler related. "It's just unbelievable."