BEMIDJI -- Four area law enforcement officers are being recognized for their efforts in trying to save two people who died in a car accident in May.
Beltrami County Sheriff’s deputies Anthony Hanson and Brian Birt were awarded the Sheriff’s Office Award of Valor, and Beltrami County Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Arhart and Minnesota State Trooper Jesse Herding were awarded the Sheriff’s Office Award of Merit.
The crash happened at approximately 11 p.m. on May 27 near the junction of U.S. Highway 2 and State Highway 89. According to the accident report, a 73-year-old Bemidji woman, Margaret Porter, was driving a 2007 Subaru Forester east on the westbound lane of Highway 2. A passenger, 82-year-old Russell Porter of Bemidji, was also in the vehicle.
Porter’s vehicle collided head-on with a 2007 Pontiac G6, driven by 21-year-old Athena Stanek of Fosston. By the time deputies Hanson and Birt arrived, Porter’s vehicle was “fully engulfed in flames,” according to a release.
Birt began to suppress the fire and Hanson began to remove the victims from the vehicle.
Arhart and Herding arrived soon after. Arhart moved the first victim farther away from the burning vehicle and helped Herding provide emergency care, according to the release.
Extracting the second victim was more difficult because of the damage to the vehicle. Birt tried to use a tire iron to get the door open. When that failed, Hanson and Herding removed the second victim through a broken window. Although both victims were ultimately extracted from the vehicle, they both died from their injuries.
Stanek, the second driver, was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.
Alcohol was not a factor in the crash.