Snow plow driver Jeff Holte is used to clearing away snow on the outside of cars. But he recently came upon a rollover crash and dug out a driver pinned inside a vehicle packed with snow.
The story stems from the snowstorm on Feb. 20, the biggest storm of the season.
“It was really warm that day, but then, all of a sudden, we got conditions that plow drivers call ‘blow ice.’ The road temps warmed up, the wind started blowing, there was drifting snow and it started sticking on the road,” Minnesota Department of Transportation employee Holte told Detroit Lakes Online. “When the road cooled down, the traffic lane turned to ice. The road went from perfect driving conditions to glare ice in a matter of a short time.”
While Holte was plowing Interstate 94 near Evansville, a car about a half-mile ahead lost control, rolled onto its roof, shattered its back window, and then slid into a ditch, MnDOT Newsline reports. Holte estimates the car was still going around 50 mph when it went into the ditch, which packed the interior with snow.
“A gal got out of the car … she came running up out of the ditch pretty frantic. She was screaming that her boyfriend was still trapped in the car packed with snow and he was having trouble breathing because the car was so full of snow," Holte told Detroit Lakes Online.
The man was lodged in the driver's seat, hanging upside down in his seat belt, MnDOT Newsline says.
“It was full of snow so I started digging out with my hands between the bucket seats, and I was talking to him to be sure he was getting air in there,” Holte said.
There was so much snow Holte said it was like being in a snow fort.
“I dug snow away from him and saw his arms were trapped up above his head. I just continued to dig more snow away until I was able to belly-crawl in and get in far enough to get his seat belt released and get him pulled out of the vehicle." Holte told the Detroit Lakes Online.
It only took a matter of minutes for Holte to get the man out and help him to his plow truck, where they waited for police.
"It probably seemed longer to him, as he was the one trapped upside down in the car," Holte told Detroit Lakes Online.
Other than being cold, the man was not injured.
“Not many people get the opportunity to save someone else’s life. I’m proud to be able to say that Jeffrey works for MnDOT and that I have the pleasure to work alongside of him,” said Jeff Perkins, District 4 operations manager, told MnDOT Newsline.
“I know any other MnDOT employee would have done the same thing, but it makes me feel good that I happened to be in the right place at the right time to assist them,” Holte said.