FD woman killed in crash south of Badger

Fort Dodge couple, passers-by help at scene

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Troopers with the Iowa State Patrol and Webster County sheriff’s deputies look over the scene of a fatal crash south of Badger Sunday afternoon.

BADGER — A Fort Dodge couple along with a group of passers-by acted quickly to try and help the people involved in a head-on collision between two cars south of Badger Sunday afternoon.

The crash was reported at 1:53 p.m., 1 1/2 miles south of Badger, according to Trooper Neil Morenz, of the Iowa State Patrol.

James Harris, 85, and his wife, Norma Harris, 81, both of Fort Dodge, were in a Toyota Camry southbound on Webster County Road P59.

Norma Harris did not survive the crash.

The second vehicle, a Ford Focus, was driven by Robert Eilerts, 52, of Algona. He was traveling northbound.

According to Morenz, at the same time, a tractor equipped with a snow blower attachment to the rear was backing to the south, blowing snow to clear a farm drive, located at 1409 Paragon Ave.

The tractor was blowing the snow to the southwest into a field, Morenz reported.

Morenz said blowing snow created a temporary white-out condition, impacting the vision of both drivers.

As the Harrises’ vehicle approached the tractor, he steered the car to try to give the tractor more room, crossing the center line, according to Morenz.

The vehicle collided head-on with Eilerts’ vehicle in the northbound lane, Morenz reported.

After the crash, Jacob Horn and his girlfriend Emma Oliverius, both of Fort Dodge, were traveling in their farm truck when they saw the aftermath from their vehicle.

They were among the first ones to see that there had been a crash.

That was about 10 minutes before 2 p.m.

“I told Emma it looks like we have an accident here, we better get ready to help,” Horn said.

Horn jumped out of his vehicle and headed towards the car belonging to the Harrises. It had more damage, Horn said.

Meanwhile, another woman had stopped by to help, too.

“We saw smoke coming from the vehicle,” Horn said. “The airbags had been deployed.”

The smoke made it difficult to see anything.

“We couldn’t really see in the vehicle because of all the fumes.” Horn said.

More people arrived to help.

“I said we need a fire extinguisher,” Horn said. “Two or three Hispanic guys came out of nowhere. They didn’t even speak English, and somehow they had a fire extinguisher. Another guy showed up with a shovel, and was putting snow on the vehicle.”

Horn said initially he didn’t know how many people were in the vehicles.

“We finally saw someone,” he said. “We were looking for the driver.”

Horn, Oliverius, and the other woman tried to get the doors open.

“The electrical in the cars weren’t working,” Horn said. “The drivers’ side door was jammed.”

Initially, Horn began hitting the back window of the car with his elbow before another man came up with a hammer.

“He knocked out that window and I said we need to knock out all these windows,” Horn said.

Once the windows were broken, Horn and Oliverius noticed a woman, later identified as Norma Harris, in the passenger seat.

Horn busted off part of the window frame to puncture the airbags.

“I just started poking holes in there to relieve some of the pressure,” Horn said. “I was careful. There was different sections of the airbags.”

The man inside the vehicle was in and out of consciousness, Oliverius said.

The other woman entered the car to help Norma Harris.

“She started talking to them, seeing if she was breathing,” Horn said. “That woman did an awesome job. As soon as I broke out that window, it didn’t matter, she was in there trying to help them.”

Meanwhile, Oliverius offered her blanket scarf to Norma Harris.

Oliverius and company comforted the Harrises as they waited for help to arrive.

“I said, ‘ma’am, we are here,” Horn said. “Help is on the way.”

He added, “The other lady did a great job of reinforcing that. We just tried to encourage them. We didn’t want to attempt to move them.”

First responders arrived by about 2 p.m., Horn said.

Oliverius said the efforts of complete strangers to work together in a life-threatening situation is admirable.

“In a different city you don’t know if people would actually stop,” she said. “It says a lot about the people around Iowa and Fort Dodge.”

A large stretch of road along Paragon Avenue was closed off for more than an hour as first responders worked on scene.

The Iowa State Patrol, Webster County sheriff’s deputies, Badger Volunteer Fire Department, Vincent Ambulance, UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center, and Webster County medical examiner responded.