Many narrowly averted tragedy in 2011

This past year a number of people narrowly escaped death and were thankful to be able to talk about it afterward.
Brittarae Bayerl credited God with saving her when the Grand Am she was driving last winter in Zimmerman spun around and into an oncoming lane of traffic.
The impact of her crash was so profound, it pushed the back of her vehicle up to the ceiling of her car and the only passenger space left was where she had been sitting.
•Billy Sanderson walked through fire to save his son, Levi’s, life. He had smelled smoke while he was rocking his teething son in their Zimmerman home. He put his son down and ran downstairs to check, only to find the living room where he had been preparing for a church retreat had filled with smoke and fire. He darted back upstairs, grabbed his only son and came back down to find his only option to escape was to go through fire. Firefighters estimated that had another minute lapsed they both would have perished.
•A couple of weeks later an Otsego man and his cousin narrowly escaped death when one of them awoke to the smell of smoke in an Otsego house fire. The two individuals got out before fire gutted the home.
•Dave and Nicki Bourgeois nearly lost their entire family one Saturday morning in March while running errands. A wrong-way driver in a 2000 Lincoln LS came at the family’s minivan head-on. It became apparent the driver of this vehicle was not attempting to pass anybody but rather was hurtling straight toward them.
“Talk about your whole life and family flash before your eyes,” Nicki Bourgeois said.
Jaclynn Borris’ Lincoln ultimately slammed into the side of the Zimmerman family’s minivan, but no one in the van was hurt.
•Amy Lee Carlson, a 2003 Elk River High School graduate, walked into an Elk River ambulance after rolling her vehicle two or three times on sunswept Highway 169 in July.
“I was wanting the rolling to stop, and I wanted to be alive when it did,” she told the Star News.
•Keith Stevens, an employee of the Elk River Area School District, turned to fellow employees this year for a badly needed kidney transplant. And his employer joined forces to help him with the effort to find a donor.
A YouTube video of his plight has been created by the school district’s manager of communications, and a plea went out in the school district’s Staff Happenings for staff to consider giving what could be the gift of life.
“It’s a big decision,” Stevens admits. “I don’t ask this lightly. If it’s something someone is willing to consider to help someone else live a normal life, please consider donation.”
•For Tom Ryan and his wife, Liz, this is one year they have much to be thankful for. The Ryans survived an Oct. 9 crash involving their Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.
They were heading north on Highway 169 through Princeton when the back tire on the bike blew out.
As Tom wrestled to stay on the road, he slowly lost control of the motorcycle and it flipped on its side, throwing them both 15 feet onto the hard pavement of the highway.
“The last thing I remember was Tom saying, ‘We’re going to crash,’” Liz recalls, “and then I woke up in the emergency room.”
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Tom was taken to nearby Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton with a broken shoulder, while Liz had to be airlifted from the scene to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale with a fractured skull and broken ribs.
“We should be dead,” Liz nodded. “We’re both really lucky.”
Neither was wearing a helmet.