Clay County Sgt. Kyle Diekmann, left, nominated Hunter and Travis Owens of Wahpeton, N.D., for the Citizens Citation for Distinguished Service Award. Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting, right, presented them the award at the Clay County Board of Commissioners meeting in Moorhead on Tuesday.Dan Haglund
Two Wahpeton men were honored by Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting for saving a man’s life last month after a fiery semi crash south of Sabin. The father and son earned the Citizens Citation for Distinguished Service Award before the Clay County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning in Moorhead.
The men were nominated by Clay County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Kyle Diekmann. Following is his nomination:
“As a result of Travis and Hunter Owens’ actions on October 8, 2023, I, Sgt. Kyle Diekmann am nominating Travis and Hunter Owens for the Citizens Citation for Distinguished Service in accordance with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office policy 1310.3.2 which reads as follows: ‘Citizens who provide assistance to the Sheriff’s Office which involves risk to their life, or where the citizen contributes to the saving of another person’s life, are eligible to receive the Citizens Citation for Distinguished Service Award. On October 8, 2023, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Minnesota State Patrol, responded to an injury crash near the intersection of 70th Street and 130th Avenue South. Initial reports from the Red River Regional Dispatch Center stated a semi truck had driven off the road, struck a tree, and was now on fire. Information was being received from the caller that the driver was still inside the truck, and flames were above the cab, with it being fully engulfed.
Upon arriving on scene, Clay County Deputies, with the assistance of a Minnesota State Patrol Trooper on scene, collected and gathered information regarding the cause of the crash. It was discovered a semi was traveling southbound, driven by Jase Kelly. Kelly had fallen asleep while driving, due to the long shift working the sugar beet harvest.
As a result of Kelly falling asleep, he veered into the opposing lane and side swiped a semi-truck traveling northbound. After the initial impact, Kelly continued across the northbound driving lane and left the roadway. After leaving the roadway, the semi-truck, with a fully loaded trailer containing sugar beets, violently struck a tree, causing it to immediately catch fire.
It was learned while investigating the crash, a vehicle stopped at the crash scene. A male, who was later identified as Travis Owens, and his 19-year-old son Hunter Owens from Wahpeton, N.D., observed the crash. Owens stopped his vehicle and approached the fiery semi-truck. Owens, without regard for his own safety, pulled Kelly from the semi-truck, and moved him to a safe location. Hunter assisted his father by retrieving a knife to defeat the seatbelt, while also calling 911 to report the crash. Although appearing sore and shaken up, Kelly was walking around when first responders arrived on scene.
I truly believe without the selfless intervention and heroism of Travis and Hunter Owens; it would have been a completely different outcome on this day. Travis and Hunter Owens could have left the crash scene, fearing for their safety of the unknown risk of the semi-truck being on fire, however, they did the complete opposite. Travis and Hunter Owens risked their own safety to remove Kelly from the burning semi-truck, which contributed to saving Kelly’s life. Neither driver involved in the crash had to be transported to the hospital by an ambulance. Travis and Hunter Owens’ actions during the crash contributed to what I would consider nothing short of a miracle after witnessing the damage sustained to the semi-truck and speaking with witnesses.'”