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Audubon mom and daughter saved by seat belts

Melissa and Erica Conley were traveling in their vehicle in July when it was struck, rolled and totaled.1 / 2
Minnesota State Patrol troopers Brady Winter, left, and Joan Kunz, right, presented a "Saved by the Belt" award to Melissa (center) and Erica Conley. Melissa and Erica were involved in a rollover accident on Highway 10, and troopers determined that both women's lives were saved by wearing their seat belts. Erica was not present at the ceremony.2 / 2

On July 7, Melissa Conley and her daughter Erica were traveling east on Highway 10 in Audubon, when their vehicle was struck by another car.

The mother and daughter were both spared serious injury -- despite the fact that their vehicle was a total loss. The reason? According to Trooper Andy Schmidt of the Minnesota State Patrol, it's because they were both wearing seat belts.

"Had Melissa and her daughter not been wearing seat belts, they likely would have been ejected from the vehicle," Schmidt explained, noting that the car had rolled over two complete turns before coming to rest on the center median of the highway. Serious injury would almost certainly have occurred, he added.

As it happened, Erica walked away without lasting injury. While Melissa suffered lung contusions (i.e., bruises), fluid in the stomach and what she described as "a bump on the head," and spent the night in the hospital, the only lasting effect of the accident has been some lingering stiffness in the neck.

"We're very fortunate," said Melissa Conley.

But it was "the simple act of putting on a seat belt" that saved their lives, said State Patrol Captain Bruce Hentges.

In recognition of this fact, the State Patrol gave both Melissa and Erica Conley a "Saved By the Belt" Award Thursday. (Erica was unable to be present for the ceremony, as she is currently attending college in the Twin Cities.)

"This is why the State Patrol is so persistent about the seat belt law," said Trooper Joan Kunz. "Your (the Conleys') choice made all the difference ... the fact that you were both able to walk away is incredible."

"I believe that's true," Melissa Conley responded, adding that she feels the real "heroes" of the crash were all the EMS, rescue and fire department personnel who rushed to the aid of herself and her daughter, "without knowing what they would find."

"These guys were awesome," Conley said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454