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Published April 03, 2009, 12:00 AM

Injured EVAC flood volunteer in good spirits

Shawn O’Donnell has received get-well wishes this week from everyone from the governor to his kindergarten teacher.

By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, INFORUM

Shawn O’Donnell has received get-well wishes this week from everyone from the governor to his kindergarten teacher.

The EVAC volunteer who was struck by a car a week ago while keeping roads clear for flood-fighting efforts was in good spirits Friday and leaving the medical surgery unit at Fargo’s Innovis Health.

O’Donnell, 29, Fargo, is now in a rehabilitation unit, where he expects to be for about three weeks.

The only person seriously injured in the flood fight said he’s grateful for the visitors and calls he’s received from family, friends, co-workers, police and public officials.

Mayor Dennis Walaker and Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney signed a yellow traffic vest that hangs in O’Donnell’s room.

“The support I’ve gotten has been really tremendous and awesome,” said O’Donnell, who broke his neck and will be in a halo brace for three months.

O’Donnell was struck by a car after 2 p.m. March 27 while monitoring North University Drive and Seventh Avenue to keep it clear for vehicles involved in flood-fighting efforts.

A westbound Ford Taurus failed to stop at a flashing red light and collided with a southbound truck, O’Donnell said.

The last thing O’Donnell remembers is seeing the car come toward him and thinking, “Oh God, this is going to hurt.”

O’Donnell’s partner told him he flew 60 feet over his Jeep Cherokee after being struck by the car.

He woke up hearing what sounded like chipmunk voices and used his radio to call for help before passing out again.

O’Donnell’s brother, Ryan O’Donnell, was 10 blocks away doing traffic control with the West Fargo Police Department and heard his brother’s call for help over the radio.

Shawn O’Donnell also suffered a concussion and broke his left wrist and both ankles.

He is undergoing physical, occupational and speech therapy. It will be six months to a year before he’s fully recovered, O’Donnell said.

An investigation of the crash is still pending, said Fargo Police Lt. Pat Claus.

Monty Meyer of Fargo was driving the truck and Muharem Kurtaljevic was driving the car, Claus said.

Police reports will be forwarded to prosecutors for consideration of charges.

O’Donnell had been doing traffic control for the flood-fighting efforts since March 22. He worked each day from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rested, and then returned to work until as late as midnight or 1 a.m.

“I love doing traffic control,” said O’Donnell, who works for North Dakota State University’s Air Force and Army ROTC program. “I love serving the community.”

During the flood, many drivers were out sightseeing and should not have been on the road, he said.

EVAC Chief Charles Dosh hopes this incident gets drivers to be more careful.

“Drivers just don’t pay attention,” said Dosh, a longtime friend of O’Donnell. “They have other things on their mind.”

EVAC, which stands for Emergency Vehicle Assistance and Communications, has 16 members locally who logged 900 hours last year doing traffic control for events and emergencies, Dosh said.

As a teenager, Shawn O’Donnell couldn’t wait to become an EVAC volunteer like his older brother. He signed up on his 18th birthday, the first day he was old enough.

O’Donnell feels lucky to be alive and plans to continue volunteering with EVAC.

“This will not stop me at all,” O’Donnell said. “I love doing this and I’ll always do this.”

How to help:

  • A benefit fund for Shawn O’Donnell has been set up at State Bank & Trust. Donations can be dropped off at any branch or mailed to 409 Sheyenne St., West Fargo, 58078.

  • A Facebook group has been set up for O’Donnell. Go to www.facebook.com and search Shawn O’Donnell Benefit Account.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590