Isanti Co. sheriff's deputy saves family from van submerged in icy swamp

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Photo courtesy of Isanti County Sheriff's Office

An Isanti County sheriff's deputy is being heralded as a hero after rescuing three people trapped in a submerged van after it lost control on an icy road. 

On Monday, a van went off the road near the intersection of Verdin Street and 345th Avenue NW in Springvale Township and rolled over into a swamp. The vehicle became partially submerged, trapping Bill Jensen, his girlfriend and his 87-year-old father inside. 

“The water was coming up and the water was very cold," said Bill Jensen. "It was scary.”

“I can’t even remember the vehicle rolling," said Shorty Nelson, Bill's girlfriend. "I just thought I’m hanging upside down from my seatbelt, hit water, it got me into the mode that I had to do something.”

Nelson somehow was able to right herself, found her phone in what she estimated to be eight to nine inches of water and called 911.

Deputy Alex Schlangen arrived to the scene in minutes. 

"Right when I got out, I heard them tapping on the glass," said Schlangen. "I knew I had to get them out because they were screaming, 'Help, get us out of here.'”

Schlangen used his baton to break two of the van's windows while he was standing in thigh-deep water. He helped Nelson and Bill Jensen out of the van. The deputy then crawled partially into the van and helped get Bill Jensen Sr., who was still trapped inside of the vehicle. 

Once all three occupants of the van were safely out of the vehicle, Schlangen put them in his squad car so they could warm up until the ambulance arrived.

"It was something very heroic," said Bill Jensen. "Saved our lives. I can't thank him enough."

Deputy Schlangen’s work though wasn’t done. He helped the tow truck operator get the vehicle flipped back on its tires. When the victims were given the all clear by paramedics at the scene, he drove them home.

He then changed out of his wet gear and finished his overnight shift.