Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 10, 2001

LP fireman escapes serious injury in highway accidents

By Lynda Jensen

A Lester Prairie firefighter is miraculously OK following two multi-car accidents that closed down Highway 7 Tuesday for several hours.

Wallace Dibb, 71, who was responding to an accident, was standing at the side of the road when he was overtaken and dragged by a runaway semi truck that became part of a second crash at the same location, one mile inside of the McLeod County border, between McLeod County Road 9 and the Hollywood Ranch House.

Dibb received minor cuts and bruises, and a sore ankle, but is otherwise safe and sound, said his wife, Shirley. "It's a total miracle," she said. "He's thankful to be alive."

"He heard someone say 'Everybody, run for your lives,'" Shirley said. Dibb started to run, but felt a soft touch at the back of his leg, she said. He became airborne and landed in a snow bank, with the truck ending up on top of him, she said.

Jerry Pawelk pulled him out of the snow. Dibb was covered head to foot in grease and oil, she said.

Dibb has spent 50 years on the Lester Prairie Fire Department.

The same truck that struck Dibb also demolished a 1998 Crown Victoria state patrol car parked along the road. The trooper inside, Jonathan Paurus, from Mankato, was taking a statement from Van Vero, 44, of Minneapolis, who was involved in the first accident. The trooper and Vero were both taken to Waconia, treated and then released.

How it all started

The incident started at 10:03 a.m when William Kohlmann, 52, going westbound in a black 2000 Pontiac Grand Am, attempted to pass another vehicle under foggy conditions, according to the accident report. Kohlmann was struck in a head-on collision with a 2000 white Bix produce truck driven by Vero.

Both vehicles ended up in the south ditch.

Emergency crews converged on the scene. Kohlmann was transported to Waconia, and then Hennepin County Medical Center in serious condition. Vero was not injured at the time.

An hour later, a 1998 International truck, driven by Bryan Aasen, 35, of Willmar, slowed down in order to yield to the emergency vehicles at the accident site, and was rear-ended by a 1992 semi truck hauling grain, driven by James Larson, 65, of Grove City, according to the state patrol.

Larson did not brake initially, hoping to drive out of it, the state patrol reported.

His truck side-swiped an oncoming 2000 Mack semi truck, driven by Virgil Meidinger, 61, of Aberdeen, So. Dak.; and continued on, clipping a New Germany rescue fire truck, scooping up Dibb off the road, and plowing into the parked squad car,which was flanked, and somewhat protected, by two tow trucks, the state patrol said.

The force from Larson propelled Aasen's truck into the parked patrol car as well, the state patrol reported.

Nearly all the vehicles ended up in the ditch in a pile, since the patrol car then struck the two vehicles lying in the ditch from the first accident, first the Grand Am, and then the white produce truck.

Larson was taken to the Glencoe hospital for minor injuries.

Several emergency personnel responded to the scene, including the Winsted, West Metro, New Germany fire departments.

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