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Rescuers receive life-saving award from county commissioners

Al Sheldon, from left, Seth Holmstrom and Wayne Klema stand together Tuesday after Sheldon and Holmstrom received life-saving awards during the Kandiyohi County board meeting. Sheldon and Holmstrom pulled Klema out of Lake Wakanda last month after he and his all-terrain vehicle plunged through ice. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

WILLMAR -- If Al Sheldon and Seth Holmstrom hadn't been where they were when they were, Wayne Klema likely wouldn't be here today.

Sheldon and Holmstrom were praised Tuesday during the Kandiyohi County Board meeting for saving Klema's life and were given plaques to commemorate their life-saving heroics.

"They did a great job," said Sheriff Dan Hartog. "They didn't stand by. They got involved."

Klema's wife, daughter and grandchildren who were at the meeting applauded.

The scenario, which involved a warm December afternoon on a Minnesota lake, has been played out numerous times this year because of unstable ice conditions. Fortunately for Klema, his story didn't end as a sad statistic.

In retelling the events, Hartog said Sheldon and Holmstrom were fishing on Lake Wakanda on Dec. 29 and had opened the door flaps of the portable fish house they were using.

They saw Klema come across the lake on a three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle when suddenly the vehicle plunged through the ice.

Although they could see the three-wheeler, they couldn't see Klema.

When they ran the 25 or so feet to where the vehicle had disappeared, they saw Klema under the water with the three-wheeler floating on top of him.

Klema's boot was caught on the brake lever and he couldn't free himself from the vehicle. The two quick-thinking men got his boot free and plucked Klema from the icy water.

"How long was I under the water," Klema asked his rescuers as the group chatted in the hallway after the presentation.

"About 60 seconds," said Sheldon.

It was the first time Klema had had a chance to talk to the men who saved him.

Grateful is how Klema's wife, Brenda, described her feelings. "It would've been a grim New Year's otherwise."

Other than being wet and cold and a perhaps a little in shock, Klema wasn't injured during the incident and was able to drive home in his pickup -- with a wet all-terrain vehicle loaded in the back.

Sheldon and Holmstrom didn't miss a beat after the rescue.

"We caught three fish after you left," Sheldon told Klema.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750