TAYLORS FALLS, Minn. -- Two Minneapolis women suffered serious injuries after being run over by a sport-utility vehicle at a popular restaurant in Taylors Falls on Saturday.
The accident happened just after 2 p.m. at The Drive In Restaurant at 572 Bench Street. According to the Chisago County Sheriff's Office, a vehicle backed into a group of people sitting at a picnic table, pinning Kirsten Christensen, 37, and Lauren Damman, 53, under the vehicle. One of the victims was also submerged underwater in a stream that runs through the area.
The driver of the Ford Explorer has been identified as Bonnie Rushfeldt, 67, from Dresser, Wisconsin.
Carly Peterson, who works at The Drive In and witnessed the aftermath of the crash, said people started yelling at the woman to stop as she was backing up toward the picnic table.
"The panic set in and I think instead of hitting the brakes she accidentally hit the gas pedal and right down the hill she went," Peterson said.
Owner Wade Vitalis said he was amazed at how many people rushed to help the women, saying, "Anybody sitting at a picnic table... they didn't run away from it. They ran to help, which was the amazing part."
According to Vitalis, up to 20 people helped lift the Ford Explorer to pull one of the victims out of the way. Another woman was still pinned underneath, submerged in a stream.
"So we cut off a length of the hose and brought it down to try and help the woman breathe while she was underwater... it wasn't coordinated but everybody worked together," Vitalis said.
Another man hooked the front of his Jeep up to the SUV and backed up as everybody pushed the vehicle up a slope.
"Then we got the other woman out. She wasn't breathing. She was blue. And so then there was a gentleman there in a blue shirt who started mouth-to-mouth and CPR right away," Vitalis said.
Vitalis estimates the woman was underwater for about five minutes. He said first responders were able to resuscitate her.
"Because of all these people jumping into action... it really touched my heart to see people do that and there's a lot more good in the world and that was just an example of people wanting to do something," he said.
Both women were airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul with serious injuries. They are listed as critical condition as of July 3.
The accident remains under investigation by the Chisago County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol.