COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. (KMSP) - A family in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, is mourning the death of their son after he died in the line of duty as an EMT in Iowa.
Their son spent eight years serving his country and then started serving his community as a first responder. Steve Werner’s mother said he was an adrenaline junkie who thrived on helping others.
Whether it was his comrades on the battlefield, the patients he treated or his young family, the 34-year-old man was passionate about life.
“We consider ourselves very, very lucky to be Steve’s mom and dad; we had a really good one, he was a good one,” said Lugene Werner, his mother.
Dan and Lugene Werner were never far from the phone during the eight years their only son was deployed overseas in the military. But, after he returned to his young family and settled into civilian life as an EMT in Dubuque, their fears faded away.
Until two weeks ago when that call shattered their world.
“I never thought it would happen here at home. I didn’t think I would get a call at six in the morning from a priest to tell us that,” Dan Werner said.
Steve was on his way back from transporting a patient to Chicago when his 19-year-old partner crashed into the back of a semi-truck on a bridge. The two were just minutes away from the office of Paramount Ambulance.
“The pictures we’ve seen of the accident—the left side of the ambulance looks perfectly fine –the right side of the ambulance, not so much," Lugene Werner said.
Steve had been an EMT for less than a year and loved being on the front lines helping others. After multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he still wanted to save lives at home. His brother in-law said the dangers the EMS community faces is often overlooked.
“I think it’s something you take for granted that you can just make a call and someone can be there pretty quick to take care of you, and you don’t think about it until it’s something that you need,” said Tim Thrush, his brother in-law.
Steve leaves four young children and his high school sweetheart behind. His younger sister thinks about the milestones he'll miss out on - including their third child due in October.
“The last time we talked it was over text message, and I texted him to let him know that I was expecting again," said Krissie Thrush, Steve's sister.
His family will forever miss their "Stevie," but take comfort he died a hero.
"If anyone was going to get hurt, he would have taken it. That’s what he would have done,” his parents said.
The family set up a YouCaring page in Steve's memory, which you can find here: https://www.youcaring.com/krystawerner-1180768