WILTON, Minn. – Longtime friends Chase Torgerson and Cody Charpentier were driving along a northwestern Minnesota highway near Wilton when they saw a car fly through the air and crash into a median.
They jumped out to help — only to turn around moments later and see one of the passengers from the crashed car hop into Torgerson's vehicle and peel away. And, to make matters worse, the car thief rolled Torgerson's car, totalling it, just about 800 yards down the road on Highway 2.
"Look what you get for your trouble," State Patrol Capt. Dick Wittenberg said of Torgerson's good deed. "You get your car stolen."
Torgerson and Charpentier saw the car crash early Tuesday and sprang into action. Torgerson, who has had National Guard training, began tending to an injured passenger who was dangling out of two blown-out windows.
He even put his own gloves on the victim and, with wind chills at minus-34 degrees, he used his bare hand to call 911 with his cell phone.
"Chase! Turn around! Your car!" Charpentier screamed. Torgerson, 20, of Clearbrook, saw one of the uninjured passengers commandeer his car.
"What can I do?" he recalled. "There goes my car. I'm still on the line with 911."
Once Torgerson's car was totaled, the car thief fled on foot. Authorities used a police dog to find the driver, who was hiding under a semitrailer truck.
Wittenberg said all three people in the first vehicle were "heavily intoxicated."
The man Torgerson helped "was bleeding, moaning and grunting," recalled Torgerson, who is based at Camp Ripley and is waiting to be sent overseas.
"I felt around, grabbed his leg lightly, grabbed his arms to make sure he wasn't paralyzed, but he said he could feel everything," he said.
When all was said and done, the slightly hurt getaway driver and a passenger ended up in jail, and one man landed in the hospital with serious injuries.
For Torgerson, his 17-year-old sedan was "smashed pretty good," but he said he'd do it again if faced with another situation.
Next time, though, he won't leave his keys in the car.
"I didn't know what kind of people they were," he said.