Mechanic recounts surviving tornado that took coworker's life

DALTON, Minn. — Mechanic Nathan Erickson said it was about the most terrifying moment of his life, hanging on to a QuadTrac Case that flew all the way across the shop floor while he was sheltering from the tornado, Wednesday, July 8.

"Like I said, I was underneath the axle and hanging on to a draw bar," Erickson recounted.

Nathan, and fellow mechanic, Seth Nelson, were working in the Hansen Repair shop near Dalton, when the two sensed the storm was coming.

"We had our phones out and taking Snapchats of it, we thought it was a joke at first," Erickson said .

The tornado came right for them through the shop. That's when Erickson dove for cover underneath the tractor.


"Seth was right there and I didn't see what happened," Erickson said. "I just crawled under there and held on for dear life."

When Erickson came to his senses, he looked for his co-worker and friend, Nelson.

"There was so much dirt and everything, I looked up and I realized where I was and how serious it was, so much dirt in my eyes and ears and I couldn't see or hear, I kept yelling, 'Seth' and I didn't hear anything," Erickson said.

Moments later, Erickson realized Seth Nelson didn't make it.

"You know, he was one of the greatest guys I ever worked with," Erickson said. "I have learned you can put a uniform on a guy and hand him a wrench, but it is what is inside that makes a guy. You aren't going to replace Seth Nelson."

The tragedy has been a lot for Erickson to process. The place where he worked is now destroyed with trucks and tractors scattered. He nearly lost his life. If he had, he would have left behind his young family.

It is hard to believe anyone could survive anything like this. Nelson had just finished working on the Case IH Tractor a couple of days ago, if it wasn't for him, Nate wouldn't have found safety under it.

"This thing saved my life," Erickson said. "He is an all-around great guy. Never one to judge, always willing to help a guy out."


Seth Nelson left behind a wife and four kids, including twin boys, and a new baby. A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Nelson family.

A GoFundMe has also been established to help all the victims of the tornado to begin their recovery. To donate to the fund, Click here

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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