A Luverne teen received a Christmas Eve gift when Lincoln County Sheriff Chad Meester drove from Ivanhoe to thank her for her help during a June 4 boating accident.
“I want to thank you with this certificate of appreciation and thank you for all you did that day,” he said to Zoe Wek. “You really took the initiative. If you did that naturally, you’re going to go places.”
Wek, who plans to become an emergency medical technician, was overwhelmed by tears during the unexpected sheriff’s visit.
“I was happy but sad,” she told the Star Herald last week. “It brought back a lot of memories.”
The accident happened while Wek, her parents, Tim and Kim Haraldson, and her sister, Kaidence, were fishing from a boat near the shore of Norwegian County Campground north of Lake Benton.
Just after Wek sat down with her pole, a boat pulling a girl on an inflatable tube motored past and the tube and its rider struck the front of the Haraldson boat.
The girl was unconscious when Wek reached down to grab the life jacket to hold the girl’s face above water. Her dad helped lift the girl into their boat.
Blood filled the water.
“She had a huge gash on her neck and that’s what caused so much blood,” Wek said.
A nurse from the other boat stemmed the bleeding until their boat got to shore.
Meanwhile, Wek cut —with her teeth — the three fishing lines that became entangled with the tube to prevent others from being entangled.
Once the boat reached the shore, Wek comforted the injured girl’s sister.
“If that was my sister, I would want someone to make sure I was OK,” she said.
Wek also jogged down the remote road leading to the lake to make sure first responders found the right location.
Sheriff Meester said last week he understands how overwhelming accident scenes can be and people often freeze.
But he said Wek was at the right place at the right time with the right attitude, playing a positive role with emergency personnel.
“You never know when you’re going to be called to step up,” he said.
Wek’s mom contacted Meester to explain what happened that day.
“I believe the fast actions Zoe took this day, when she found the girl first, could be a huge reason she is still here today,” Kim wrote in her Christmas Eve social media post.
Wek’s preparedness came from CPR and other safety lessons at Luverne High School where she is a sophomore. Her role in the June 4 water rescue gives her confidence for her future career.
“It makes me think — after this happened — of what I can do to help people,” Wek said. “My family and I think I was put on the boat for a reason.”