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Willmar residents, Canadians to be honored for lifesaving efforts

WILLMAR — Three local residents, as well as two Canadian lifeguards, will be honored Monday evening with Life Safety Certificates from the Willmar Ambulance Service for their efforts in saving the lives of two Willmar residents.

Daniel Ruter and Robert Rodriguez, both of Willmar, were enjoying the beach at Robbins Island on July 18 when they learned a child was missing and under water. They immediately jumped into Foot Lake to help search for 11-year-old Hafsa Omar and found her unresponsive in about seven feet of water.

They brought her to shore where Melissa Bobrowski and Travis Toews, two lifeguards from Canada who happened to be in town for Sonshine Fest, immediately began CPR. They were able to restore the girl's pulse and respirations, and continued until emergency responders arrived and took over her care.

Hafsa's parents, Abdilahi Omar and Rahma Maalin of Willmar, as well as the entire Somali community, are extremely thankful to everyone who helped save their daughter's life. "She is 100 percent perfect," Zak Mahboub said, translating for the couple. "They can't believe it. It is a miracle."

Mahboub added that Hafsa's parents also wanted to thank Dr. Hussein Egal, a full time ER physician with Rice Memorial Hospital who happened to be on duty that evening and was able to speak with them in their native language.

Ruter and Rodriguez will receive their certificates in person, while Bobrowski and Toews will attend the award ceremony via online video conferencing.

A fifth Life Safety Certificate will also be awarded to 10-year-old Fernando Zelaya of Willmar who helped save the life of his infant sibling on March 11. Fernando's father, Edwin Herrera, made the initial 911 call, but handed the phone over to Fernando due to a language barrier. The boy continued the 911 call and gave critical information to the ambulance crew who was able to respond to the call with Fernando's help and resuscitate the infant.

The award presentation will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at Rice Memorial Hospital's Lakeland Auditorium. The public is welcome to attend.