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Havre man recovering from crash


A Havre youth seriously injured in a snowmobile accident last week is expected to make a full recovery, his mother said today.

Josh Knudson, 19, is being treated at the Benefis East campus in Great Falls, Debby Knudson said. Josh was injured last Tuesday when he crashed into the side of a ravine at more than 60 mph while riding north of Havre.

The collision broke Knudson's jaw in four places, broke both arms and six ribs, and collapsed both of his lungs. After he was stabilized at Northern Montana Hospital in Havre, Knudson was flown by helicopter to Benefis Healthcare where a team of doctors performed surgery.

Knudson is doing well and may be out of the hospital was early as Thanksgiving, his mother said.

"He is making a great recovery," she said. "His guardian angel is looking out for him."

Knudson, a dispatcher at the Hill County Sheriff's Office, credited the efforts of sheriff's deputies and Havre Fire Department rescue workers with saving her son's life.

The accident occurred about 5 p.m. while Knudson was riding with his friend Mike Levinburg. Levinburg was riding a four-wheeler while Knudson was atop a snowmobile.

Knudson took off after a deer and forgot about a large ravine that runs through the field he was riding in, his mother said. He crashed into the bottom of the ravine.

It took Levinburg more than 15 minutes to find his friend. After wrapping Knudson in a jacket, Levinburg rode for help. He went to the Knudson house and told Knudson's girlfriend, Twila Rudolph, about the accident. The two called for help, and then went to wait with Josh.

Rudolph called Knudson's mother.

"She was on a cell phone and it kept cutting out," Debby Knudson said. "All I heard was 'Josh,' 'snowmobile accident' and 'hospital.'"

As he lay in the bottom of the ravine, Josh Knudson conveyed a message through his broken jaw to his girlfriend.

"He said, 'I know I'm going to die. Tell my family I love them,'" Debby Knudson said. "Twila told him to hang on because he wasn't going to die."

Rescue workers traveled by pickup to the ravine, where they had a difficult time reaching Knudson, deputy Monte Reichelt said today.

"The snowmobile was laying in the bottom of the ravine, about 150 feet down," he said. "Two EMTs - Tim Evans and Jack Tretheway - went down and attended to Josh. Those guys did a good job. It was really cold out there."

It took six people to carry Knudson out of the ravine on a backboard, Reichalt said.

"It was quite a task because the snow was so deep," he said.

Knudson was placed in the bed of a sheriff's truck. EMTs kept him warm and monitored his vital signs as Reichelt drove the truck four miles cross country to where the ambulance was parked.

On the way, rescue workers reassured Josh that he was going to make it, his mother said.

Reichelt said that although Knudson's injuries were severe, he was confident he would live.

"He was in pretty rough shape, but I figured he'd make it," Reichelt said. "The EMTs do a great job."

Josh Knudson was taken to the hospital where yet another complication arose. The on-call surgeon could not be located, and deputies frantically tried to find him, Debby Knudson said.

Deputy Dottie Dwyer finally found the doctor in the gym of Lincoln-McKinley Early Primary School where he was practicing yoga.

The doctor could not be reached for comment this morning. Hospital spokeswoman Kathie Newell said it is likely that the surgeon did not have cellular service inside the school building. It is part of hospital protocol to have law enforcement locate an on-call physician in the event they cannot be paged, Newell said.

"This is not the first time we have sent an officer to find an on-call physician that we cannot reach," she said. "To us, it's one of the advantages of living in a small town and having a good relationship with the law enforcement community."

Knudson was stabilized at the hospital, where doctors ran ventilator tubes into his collapsed lungs, his mother said.

His sister, Jennifer Durward, a nurse with Northern Montana Healthcare, was at the hospital was Knudson was brought in.

"I was just praying that everything was OK," she said. "I knew what was going on in the next room."

The next day Knudson was flown to Great Falls.

Debby Knudson said she believes the hard work of the EMTs and deputies saved her son's life.

"They went above and beyond the call of duty. If it wasn't for the deputies, my son would have been dead," she said. "It was a pretty traumatic thing."

Unable to talk with his broken jaw, Josh Knudson must point to a letter board to communicate with friends and family.

"He keeps pointing to deputies Reichelt, Dwyer and (Steve) Marden and saying, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,'" Debby Knudson said.


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