By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN It was about 15 degrees below zero the evening of Jan. 9, when a 4-year-old Winsted girl stepped out of the door of her parents' home without them noticing, Police Chief Mike Henrich told the council at its Wednesday meeting.
All she had on for warmth was a pink sweater, and she had managed to walk six blocks from her home before she was found by Patrick Hughes of Winsted and returned to her parents, Jason and Amanda Reinert.
Because of Hughes, this story has a happy ending, Henrich said. “I want to thank Mr. Hughes for taking the time to do the right thing, at the right time.”
Hughes was presented a certificate of commendation by Winsted Mayor Steve Stotko and Police Chief Mike Henrich for his efforts in rescuing the girl, who had been found about 9 p.m., after she had been out in the cold for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Hughes said the evening of Jan. 9, he and his wife, Jennifer, and his two daughters, Holly, 3, and Erin, 2, had returned to their home at 241 Arthur Avenue from a family outing.
After the girls were tucked in bed, Hughes said he decided to run up to Casey’s to get gas in his truck.
It was on his way back home that he saw the little girl walking along the road and pulled over.
“She was crying,” Hughes said. “I asked her if she was all right and if she wanted some help. She told me she was lost and really cold.”
“She was shivering so hard it was hard to understand what she was saying,” Hughes said. “All I was able to understand was ‘daddy and gas.’”
When Hughes offered her a ride, she never hesitated. She got in the truck and tried to get in the car seat of Hughes’ youngest daughter, which was too small.
Hughes said he suggested she try the car seat of his older daughter and she climbed in.
There was an auxiliary heater in the back of the truck, which Hughes turned up, and he had extra coats and hats and gloves in the back seat, which he offered her.
“From what she said, I thought maybe her dad worked at Casey’s. I don’t have a cell phone so I went back to Casey’s,” Hughes said.
When Hughes realized her father didn’t work at Casey’s, he called 911, and Officer Dan Pohl arrived.
Pohl was not able to get any more information from the child than Hughes, but it wasn’t long before a 911 call came in about a lost child.
It was shortly after that, the little girl was reunited with her parents.
“She was a brave little girl. She was cold, but she wasn’t scared,” Hughes said.
After presenting Hughes with the plaque for saving a young girl’s life, Henrich asked, “Will you be invited to that little girl’s wedding?”
“I hope. She was a pretty special little kid,” Hughes said.