Sheriff and County Board honor 15 people with 911 Life Saver Awards

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Sheriff's Office • 100 North Fifth Avenue West • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2340 •

Ross Litman

Date: April 12, 2022

Media Contact: Sheriff Ross Litman
(218) 726-2340

Sheriff and County Board honor 15 people with 911 Life Saver Awards

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman today recognized the life saving responses of citizens, law enforcement other first responders, and 911 emergency communications specialists as he presented 911 Lifesaver Awards to the people involved in five separate incidents. The awards are given as part of National Telecommunicator's Week, and were presented during today's County Board meeting in Duluth.

Among those honored are:

Tim Rasmusson, Tyler McClellan, Cody Vredenburg and Matt Bade: The four men work for Lake Country Power and had been driving to a job site when they noticed a vehicle had gone into a water-filled ditch and overturned. The driver of that vehicle, meanwhile, had just called 911 and told Emergency Communications Specialist Laura Vukmanich that her vehicle was sinking and she couldn't get out. The four men, along with another passerby, Niko Sarazine, tried initially to flip the vehicle over. When that didn't work, Rasmussen ran to get a receiver hitch from their work truck while the others worked to hold the vehicle out of the water. The woman in the vehicle, Demi, was able to release the seatbelt and climb toward the back of the vehicle. When Rasmussen returned, he used the hitch to break a window, through which Demi was able to crawl out. Rasmussen carried her back to the Lake Country Power truck, where she was able to warm up until the ambulance arrived. Virginia Fire Fighter Dustin Erickson nominated the men for this award, stating that their efforts were “some of the more impactful acts” that he has seen. This incident happened  November 11, 2021, along Highway 37 near Highway 25.

Jacob Gargano, St. Louis County Deputy Sheriff; Grant Gimpel, Grand Lake Fire Chief;  LuAnn Skorich, wife of the patient; Alex Larson, former St. Louis County Rescue Squad volunteer; and Sarah Kemp, 911 Emergency Communications Specialist: When LuAnn Skorich, a retired nurse, discovered her husband Dan wasn't breathing, she immediately performed the Heimlich maneuver, thinking he was choking. When that didn't help, she began performing CPR. She also called 911 and was aware enough to unlock the door to her home. Even though she'd routinely performed emergency CPR during her career, the realization that she was having to do this alone, for her husband, was overwhelming. From the time that LuAnn called 911, until first responders arrived on scene, Emergency Communications Specialist Sarah Kemp stayed on the line with LuAnn, reassuring her that she was doing a good job, to keep going, and provided updates as to when help would arrive. Grand Lake Fire Chief Grant Gimpel, Rescue Squad member Alex Larson, and Deputy Jacob Gargano arrived, bringing medical equipment inside and eventually took over with CPR efforts. They relayed information to LuAnn during the incident and even shoveled the walkway for the Mayo Ambulance. Working together as a team, this group saved the life of Dan Skorich. This incident happened January 16, 2021 in Grand Lake.

Robert and Casley Nagengast: The couple had been boating on Elbow Lake near Orr, on April 22, 2021, looking for vacation property. Casley noticed what initially looked like buoys reflecting the sun. But after looking more closely they discovered it was an overturned canoe. They then noticed debris floating in the water, and a man hanging on to the keel and motor of the overturned vessel. The couple worked to pull the man, Kyle Westrick, into their boat. Westrick was stiff and largely unresponsive. It was later determined he'd been in the chilly water up to two hours, remaining afloat thanks to his life jacket They then began looking for help. Coincidentally, he, too, had been looking at properties that day.

The Nagengasts were able to pull Westrick into their boat and then began looking for help. There was no cell service, so they attempted to signal S.O.S. with their boat’s air horn as they headed back toward the Elbow Lake Lodge, an approximately 10-minute trip. As it was early in the year, there was no one else on the lake or at the lodge so they continued on to the public landing where, after several unsuccessful attempts to call 911, they were finally able to report the emergency. Casley left the landing to find better cell phone service. Robert, who'd injured himself by straining his back, worked to warm up the man.

"Robert, Casley and Kyle found themselves in a life-changing event that day in April," said Sheriff Litman. "That incident exemplifies what it truly means to save a life and, just as importantly, appreciate every day that we are given. Kyle is appreciative of the Nagenagasts and thanks them for giving him his 'bonus time'."

Megan Groom: On September 16, 2021, Megan Groom was driving down Grant Ave in Eveleth when she noticed a woman with a baby who was choking. Groom made a U-turn and stopped to see how she could help. The mother, Shannon, said she and her three children had been at home when the baby, 11-month-old, Willow, began choking. Shannon grabbed her daughter and ran outside to the nearby Jon's Drugstore, in hopes of finding someone to help. 

Inside the store, Megan took Willow from Shannon’s arms and quickly gave five or six back thrusts to Willow’s limp body. As the Eveleth Ambulance was arriving, Willow had started to exchange air and was crying as responders took her into the ambulance. During the incident Megan recalled an unknown woman had taken it upon herself to help care for the other children in the apartment. Megan later learned that the mysterious caregiver was her preschool teacher and neighbor who had also happened to be in the right place at the right time.  

Gavin Nichols, St. Louis County Deputy Sheriff; and Nicholas Grivna, Virginia Police Officer: During the morning of February 28, 2021, a fire broke out in a multi-unit apartment building in Virginia. Virginia Police Officer Nicholas Grivna and St. Louis County Deputy Gavin Nichols were among several Law Enforcement officers who responded. Large flames and heavy smoke were visible from the rear of the building. As fire crews from several area fire departments began searching the building, Grivna and Nichols learned that a tenant may still be in the southwest corner of the building, near an area of heavy fire. The two were able to break a window to the apartment, and successfully pull the woman out of the building through the window. During the hours-long incident several responders were treated for minor injuries, and nine residents were displaced from the building. The actions of Officer Grivna and Deputy Nichols, as well as the numerous first responders on the scene, prevented the loss of any life that morning.


Since 1993, St. Louis County has recognized the efforts of those individuals who have worked
together, often risking their own safety, to save others. The 911 Life Saver Award honors
those worthy of such recognition, but also serves to educate the public on how the County's 911
system works.

Lake Country Power employees

L-R are: Cody Vredenburg, Sheriff Ross Litman, Matt Bade and Tyler McClellan. Not pictured are Tim Rasumusson and Niko Sarazine.

911 Life Saver - Skorich

L-R are: Grant Gimpel, Grand Lake Twp Fire Chief; Alex Larson, former St. Louis County Rescue Squad volunteer; Sheriff Ross Litman; LuAnn Skorich, Grand Lake Township; and Sarah Kemp, 911 Emergency Communications Specialist. Not pictured is Deputy Sheriff Jacob Gargano.

Lifesaver award - Virginia apt fire

L-R: Virginia Police Officer Nicholas Grivna and Sheriff Ross Litman. Not pictured is Deputy Sheriff Gavin Nichols.

911 Life Saver awards - all

The Sheriff and County Board recognized numerous citizens and emergency responders with 911 Life Saver Awards. L-R (kneeling) are: Commissioners Keith Musolf, Keith Nelson, Patrick Boyle and Ashley Grimm; and Grand Lake Fire Chief Grant Gimpel. (Standing) Virginia Police Office Nicholas Grivna, former Rescue Squad volunteer Alex Larson, Commissioner Mike Jugovich, Cody Vredenburg, 911 Communications Specialist Sarah Kemp, Sheriff Ross Litman, Matt Bade, Tyler McClellan, LuAnn Skorich, and Commissioner Paul McDonald.