Elderly Manson man critical after rollover accident near downtown Fort Dodge

City electrician helps when crash leaves power line draped across pickup

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Fort Dodge firefighters and paramedics tend to a man who was seriously injured in a rollover accident near South Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue South.

The Fort Dodge city electrician responded with rescuers to a serious rollover accident late Tuesday morning that left a live power line draped across a pickup that landed on its side with a man trapped in it.

The driver, Norman Thoel, 87, of Manson, was taken to the hospital in “critical condition,” according to Fort Dodge Police Lt. Dennis Mernka.

The rollover happened near the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and Eighth Street shortly before noon.

“The truck was traveling west on Fifth Avenue South, coming around the South Eighth Street curves. He was traveling too fast and had vehicles in front of him,” Mernka said. “He swerved to avoid the vehicles, and went through the first median which contains all the flowers. He jumped that median, and in doing so hit a vehicle that was on Eighth Street that had just turned off Fifth Avenue South.

“He continued across the next median, and ended up on the west curb. At that point we believe he hit the accelerator, did a complete U-turn, and came across all four lanes again of South Eighth Street. He hit a utility pole, which ended up snapping the pole and flipping the truck. The utility pole was still electrified.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Fort Dodge firefighters clean up after a pickup truck rolled near the intersection of South Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue South late Tuesday morning.

The Chevrolet Silverado pickup ended up on its right side in the middle of the northbound lane of Eighth Street.

Mernka said a nurse who happened to be in the area stopped to tend to Thoel before emergency personnel arrived. He said the nurse broke the pickup’s front window, cutting her hands, to see if she could render aid to the man and keep him company until paramedics arrived.

But she and other rescuers had to be careful, as an electrical cable was lying across the pickup.

“As soon as we saw the line, we got her the heck out of there,” Mernka said.

Fort Dodge Fire Department Capt. Jeff Hill described the power line as “energized.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Fort Dodge City Electrician Steve Mattke is lifted up to power lines on South Eighth Street to disconnect power and help firefighters rescue a man trapped in a pickup truck.

Firefighters and paramedics did an evaluation of Thoel from outside the pickup. Firefighters broke the back window of the cab and firefighter/ paramedic Devon Schuster went inside to help stabilize the man and evaluate him.

Mernka said he asked Fort Dodge city electrician Steve Mattke to come to the accident scene and disconnect the power. He believed Mattke could get to the scene faster than MidAmerican Energy, which also responded.

“We called for MidAmerican, of course, right away. They didn’t give us an ETA so we ended up calling the city electrician,” Mernka said. “The firefighters couldn’t do anything. We could see him through the windshield, we could tell he was moving, but that was it.”

Mattke, using a city bucket truck, was able to get the line shut off, allowing the rescue to proceed.

Once the line was turned off, firefighters went to work, using extrication equipment to cut the roof off the pickup and free Thoel.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Fort Dodge Firefighter Orlando Peace uses a tool to cut the roof off of a pickup truck to help free the driver trapped inside.

Hill said the injured man was taken to UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center.

The other vehicle, a small truck driven by Terry Lacaille, received minor damage, Mernka said.

Thoel’s Chevrolet was totaled.

The portion of South Eighth Street from Fourth Avenue South to Fifth Avenue South was closed for more than an hour as rescuers worked to get the man out of the pickup and clean up the scene.

“We very much appreciated the assistance of the nurse who was off-duty who rendered aid to him,” Mernka said. “If anyone comes across a scene like that and wants to help, (we encourage them) to make sure they survey the scene to see if was safe. With the electrical line laying on the truck, the scene was not safe at all.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
A MidAmerican Energy worker cuts wires off a power pole to help remove it. The pole was knocked over in a rollover accident at South Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue South.

As construction continues on Kenyon Road, cars are frequently backed up on Fifth Avenue South going west, Mernka said. He urged drivers to use caution in the area.

Mid-Iowa Towing removed the pickup from the scene.

Charges are pending, Mernka said.

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