Pelican Post Office carrier’s actions may earn commendation from USPS
By Louis Hoglund
A guy was on fire—literally—and a lawn tractor was overturned, on a lonely road in one of the county’s most isolated areas.
Thanks to the United States Postal Service, a tragic accident was not a fatal accident.
Fast action by Pelican USPS employee Justin Tellinghausen made the difference. And he has been nominated for a Postmaster General hero nomination, submitted by Pelican Postmaster Terry Kent.
The two-year postal employee was delivering mail on remote Tonseth Lane, near the “village” of Edwards, near the Ye Olde Schoolhouse. The time was about noon on June 19.
“I saw a big flame in the ditch, and slowed down to see what was going on,” said Tellinghausen.
The victim was Garry Bowhall, who had struggled to extricate himself from at toppled lawn tractor. His clothing was aflame.
“I ran down to the ditch…ripped his clothes off, and brought him up to the tailgate of my truck to sit while I called 911,” said Tellinghausen. He grabbed a blanket from his truck, and gave Bowhall water to drink.
“He appeared to be in shock,” recalled Tellinghausen, who acknowledged that the entire incident was somewhat of a blur for him.
Temperatures were warm, and the terrain was very dry. Tellinghausen speculated that the exhaust from the mower started the dry grass on fire, and dripping gasoline spread the flames to Bowhall as he struggled to escape from beneath the tractor.
In about 15 to 20 minutes, Otter Tail County deputies, Ringdahl Ambulance, and firefighters from the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Department arrived.
Bowhall was rushed to Essentia in Fargo with serious burns, and other injuries.
“There aren’t a lot of people on that road,” said Tellinghausen, who checked neighboring homes after the accident. he also wrote a note on the Bowhall’s door, as Linda Bowhall was at work and he was unable to immediately call her. There are only a few homes in the area.
“I just did what I had to do…but it is lucky I got there at that point in time. He may have tried to walk home, and he was very confused….It’s hard to know what might have happened,” said Tellinghausen. Burns were evident on his arms and legs—but at the time, Tellinghausen couldn’t have known how serious the injuries were.
The accompanying statement from victim Garry Bowhall explains the accident and the aftermath.
Sadly, Bowhall sustained serious burn injuries and underwent a leg amputation.
But the reality is: It could have been a much—much—more tragic outcome, if not for Justin Tellinghausen.
It was an unfortunate twist of fate that reunited junior high teacher, former student after husband rescued from burning mower
It is a small world. And the world doesn’t get much smaller, or as remote, as the Village of Edwards.
“Civilization” is comprised of Tonseth Lutheran Church, Ye Olde School House, and a handful of homes in the wooded Maplewood-Erhard hill country.
Unknowingly, the 30 year old U.S, Post Office employee Justin Tellinghausen, who encountered the accident victim, had connections to the family. Tellinghausen later found out that the accident victim’s wife, Linda Bowhall, a retired teacher from the Fergus Falls school district, taught Tellinghausen when he was a junior high student.
She reminded him that he was a former student in the “home ec” classroom. “He learned how to make smoothies and banana bread,” chuckled Linda Bowhall. She taught what is more currently referred to as “family and consumer science” classes, which at one time were the domain of young female students —but these days, it’s a mix of boys and girls in many classes.