COMFREY — Two area men who rescued a 74-year-old Nebraska man from a burning van during the weekend were honored Tuesday at the scene of the accident about four miles west of Comfrey.
Nick Rients of rural Comfrey and Stetson Shoen of Springfield received citizens achievement certificates from the Brown County Sheriff's Department for their quick actions Sunday afternoon.
The two were working in nearby fields when they witnessed the one-vehicle accident and rushed to extricate Lance F. Johnson of Wymore, Neb., from the burning van by cutting its seatbelts. They then moved Johnson to a safe distance from the vehicle.
Johnson was driving a 1995 Mercury Villager south on 400th Avenue about 5:30 p.m. and was about half mile north of Brown County Road 17 when the van left the road, struck a field approach in the east ditch, and continued southbound in the road ditch and began to burn, Brown County deputies said. Oil or transmission fluid probably started leaking in the vehicle when it hit the field approach, and the vehicle began to burn when it came to a stop, deputies said.
Johnson suffered severe burns to his left leg. He was in serious condition Tuesday morning at Regions Hospital Burn Center in St. Paul.
The van was destroyed.
Comfrey Fire Department, Comfrey First Responders and Comfrey Police Department also responded to the scene.