Four people honored for helping accident victim

“Star of Life” awards are presented Tuesday to local residents who helped remove a man from a burning vehicle in a June accident. From left are emergency medical technician Michele Bahrman; award recipients Blake Mitchell, Aydin Frost and Martin Talsma, who is holding an award for himself and his daughter, Shelby; and Josh Bahrman, a coordinator with Skandia Township First Responders. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

SKANDIA — Sometimes it’s hard to just watch and do nothing when a tragedy occurs.

Four people who didn’t just stand by after what could have been a fatal vehicle accident in June were honored for their heroic efforts with “Star of Life” awards Tuesday at the Skandia Community Center.

Honored were Martin and Shelby Talsma, Aydin Frost and Blake Mitchell.

Helping to present the plaques was Michele Bahrman, an emergency medical technician with the Skandia Township First Responders who nominated them for the award, which was sponsored by the Marquette-Alger County Medical Control Authority.

The incident for which they were being honored took place June 13 in Skandia.

Their deed was a selfless act, she said.

“If it weren’t for them pulling him out of the vehicle, he probably would not have made it,” Bahrman said.

She did not disclose the name of the victim, nor was the victim at Tuesday’s ceremony.

Bahrman said the incident was a single-vehicle personal-injury accident on Town Hall Road.

Traffic accidents are bad enough, but the ones that involve fire have a different, uncertain dynamic.

“He crashed into a tree and the vehicle caught on fire,” Bahrman said. “Blake took his truck and Aydin got a chain, and they went and yanked the door open, and Martin and Shelby assisted with pulling him out of the vehicle before it exploded.”

Mitchell was fishing near the bridge where the accident happened, and Frost was at his house, the driveway of which was right across from the accident scene.

Martin Talsma and his daughter, Shelby, were out for a walk and saw the crash.

Bahrman talked to the ceremony’s audience about the accident, reiterating her thoughts about the award recipients’ heroic deed.

“It takes a lot of courage for someone to do this,” Bahrman said. “So, I really applaud these four people for taking action on that day because that person, I want to tell you right now, today, is doing so well.”

The man, she said, suffered extensive injuries and was in the intensive care unit for several days.

“It goes to show you, in a world where you’re not sure what goes on and bad things happen, within our community — and I’ve lived here so long — it just goes to show you we have very good people in our community,” Bahrman said.

What gives her faith, she stressed, are young people — like those involved in saving the driver — since they will take over for the older generation.

One of those young people was the 18-year-old Frost, a student at Michigan Technological University who made a special trip back to the area for the ceremony.

“I was in the barn, actually cleaning out a lamb pen, and I just heard some tires screech and a loud bang,” Frost said. “I just started running down my driveway, took a right and ran like a hundred yards, and I saw the truck burning.”

He also saw the victim inside the vehicle.

“At that time my body just went into auto pilot,” Frost said. “I don’t really remember it all. I remember parts of it, like running back to Blake’s truck with him. His truck was probably 150, 200 yards away. We raced back down where the truck was burning.

“He threw me a chain, and I wrapped it around the victim’s door and then around the front of Blake’s truck. We whipped the door off and pulled the guy out.”

The Talsmas then helped him with getting the victim out of the truck, with an ambulance getting to the scene soon afterward.

“I just had so much adrenaline going,” Frost said.

However, he didn’t boast about his experience.

“Honestly, I think anyone could do it,” Frost said. “You’re just, ‘right place at the right time.'”

Mitchell, 17, a student at Marquette Senior High School, was fishing the Chocolay River at the time.

“When I heard them go by, what was going through my mind was, ‘I don’t think it’s right for me not to be able to help,’ because the 911 operator told me not to, but I guess I was able to, so I thought I should,” Mitchell said.

By the way, Mitchell didn’t catch any fish that night, but he accomplished a lot more — and, along with the other three people who helped at the scene — has the plaque to prove it.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.