Guardian angels saved lives in Blue Hill


It’s a date that will be etched on the hearts of Blue Hill residents forever. Like Pearl Harbor, Kennedy’s assassination, Columbine or the Twin Towers. You just don’t forget these things.

9-5-12 was Blue Hill’s day of tragedy and tears — a heartache that won’t easily go away.

In a town of just more than 900 residents, the pain is very personal. If you weren’t related to one of the four killed, you knew their names, their faces. You saw them at school or the grocery store, the fair or church.

You will see them no more.

A bus driver.

A farm boy.

A smiley, World War II-loving high schooler.

A girlie, fashion-conscious fifth-grader.

They are no longer here, but their names, their spirits, their legacies will live on.

By the grace of God, not all of the kids riding the bus home from school on that gravel road Wednesday will be buried.

But their fates could have been much different, if not for two guardian angels.

Ron Meyer and Philip Petr, both Blue Hill men who have cattle in the area of the crash, arrived upon the scene and pulled kids off the bus.

“I know that them two, they got on the bus and pulled them off,” said Trent Kohmetscher, who was loading steers five miles away when he and his twin brother, Trevor, saw “a big ol’ puff of smoke go up.”

The two 18-year-olds raced to the scene and saw the flaming bus and semitrailer, as well as injured children sitting on the side of the road.

They also saw Ron and Phil.

“I ain’t for sure all what happened,” Trent said, “but they had ’em out.”

Trent said Ron was doing CPR on Dustin Tesdahl, the 18-year-old who died at the scene.

Trent knows what would have happened if Ron and Phil hadn’t been there, if they hadn’t pulled the kids out of the bus.

“I’m pretty sure if they hadn’t been there, there’s a pretty good chance they wouldn’t have made it,” Trent said. “They’d have all been dead.”

Had Ron and Phil not gotten there so quickly and acted with such courage, there would have been no hope. By the time the Kohmetscher boys arrived, the bus was totally engulfed in flames.

A woman called me Friday afternoon wondering why Ron and Phil hadn’t yet been recognized. When she thinks about their act of heroism, she said, she cries.

“Those two men need to be acknowledged,” said the woman, who declined to give her name because she wanted all the credit to go to them.

“They’re heroes. I love those men.”

Exactly where Ron and Phil came from, Trent isn’t sure. But he knows they must have been close by to have been able to pull the kids out of the bus before it was overtaken by flames.

“I’m sure those two must have almost been following them,” he said.

Following the bus, just like guardian angels.

9-5-12 is a day, like so many others, that will live in infamy. But it will also live in courage and honor. For that is the day heroes saved lives in Blue Hill.

And a thousand thank yous is not enough.

Amy Palser

Amy Palser writes personal stories readers can relate to: tales of family and friends, of childhood and rites of passage, of fantastic people and ordinary things. Her column appears each Saturday. She is the Tribune's managing editor.

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