Highway 75 hero
This winter, a Red River Valley Co-op Power lineworker showed courage and calm while assisting an expectant mother following rollover crash.
The significance of the term is something soldered in Nate Zurn. Before completing line school and joining Red River Valley Co-op Power (RRVCP) as an apprentice lineworker in 2021, Zurn served in the U.S. Air Force. Country, co-op, community – he helps when help is needed.
In January, Zurn was making the Highway 75 drive from Halstad, Minn., to Moorhead to lend a hand to the RRVCP crew stationed there. As he watched the sedan driving southbound in front of him, he noticed the vehicle swerve.
“Then all of a sudden, the car skidded out and spun into the ditch and rolled over,” he remembered. “It rolled onto its top.”
Without hesitation, Zurn pulled over to the right shoulder and parked at the site of the rollover. “I knew I had to go see if she was OK and get her out of there,” he said. “I hopped out and walked over to the car and got down by the window. She was awake and was leaned over.” The woman in the car told Zurn that she already had 911 on the phone, and they were responding.
She also revealed that she was nearly nine months pregnant.
Zurn stayed calm and worked fast, running back to his RRVCP truck for a shovel to clear enough area around the car to get the driver’s door open. He helped the woman safely crawl out of the vehicle. After making sure she wasn’t in any pain and was able to walk, the two made their way to Zurn’s pickup to drink some water and wait for first responders to arrive. The ambulance was there in less than 15 minutes.
“It was pretty cold out, so they let her sit in the pickup the whole time and just talked to her through the window to make sure she was OK,” Zurn said, recalling his relief that no injuries – not even a scratch – were reported. The woman and her unborn child were taken by ambulance to the hospital for a thorough examination, but everything appeared positive.
RRVCP CEO Rich Whitcomb says what happened that January day doesn’t surprise him at all. “You really can’t make a career out of being a lineworker without practicing service to others. Our crews want to help, whether it involves restoring power due to an outage or just being in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Whitcomb described the unspoken partnership between co-op crews and their communities. RRVCP member-consumers often plow paths to help lineworkers restore power, step in to help pull trucks out of snow and mud, and generally offer patience and understanding during trying times. Neighbors help each other, and everyone is ready to serve. Especially in co-op country.
“Helping others in need is frankly typical for our crew, and lineworkers in general. They have lifelong safety training due to the nature of the work, and many are rural and small-town first responders anyway. In Nate’s case, he has military service,” Whitcomb said. “Other linemen in our crew have done similar things over the years. While Nate is being recognized for this particular instance, it really represents a devotion to service larger than any one individual.”