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HIS VEHICLE WAS UPSIDE DOWN IN POND: Frazee wrestler critically injured

MYREL SCHERMERHORN is well known in Frazee. He is now in a Fargo hospital after an accident on an icy highway on Friday evening.1 / 2
Frazee-Vergas students wear headbands to support their classmate.2 / 2

This will be a Thanksgiving the Schermerhorns will never forget, as the Frazee family continues to pray for a miracle.

17-year-old Myrel Schermerhorn remains in critical condition as of Tuesday night after he lost control of his car on an icy road Friday night, flipping it into a pond and ending up trapped in his car underwater.

The accident happened around 11 p.m. on County Road 29 about two miles north of Frazee as Schermerhorn was driving home from a wrestling and dance team fundraiser.

According to Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon, a motorist driving by saw the teen's vehicle submerged in the water with the lights on.

Gordon says members of the Frazee Fire and Rescue squad broke a window and pulled Schermerhorn out of the frigid water, estimating he had been in there for approximately 20 minutes.

According to Gordon, Schermerhorn had drowned, but because the water temperature was around 40 degrees, paramedics were able to "bring him back" on the way to a Detroit Lakes Hospital.

"A tragedy struck, but then everything seemed to sort of align for a miracle," said Gordon, who said the Frazee Rescue Squad executed their duties quickly and flawlessly.

"If they hadn't known how to deal with a cold water drowning and had considered him DOA; if the water hadn't been as cold; if Myrel hadn't been as young and as fit as he was, this could have easily ended differently."

With lungs full of water, swelling in his brain and a body temperature that had dropped significantly, the Frazee wrestler began facing the fight of his life.

Schermerhorn was transferred to Essentia in Fargo, where doctors kept him in an induced coma as they very slowly brought his body temperature back up.

While it's still unclear what, if any, effect the incident will have on his brain, Gordon cites cases where individuals were under icy water much longer than 20 minutes and were able to fully recover.

"The cold water shuts the extremities down within a minute," said Gordon, "So all of the oxygen goes for the brain, so even through he was submerged for those 20 minutes, he still had a high enough level of oxygen."

Another factor that proved positive for Schermerhorn is the fact that it was a low-speed crash, so there weren't too many additional injuries to him.

Alcohol and speed were ruled out as factors in the crash -- Gordon says all area roads were treacherous that night, but the one Schermerhorn was on proved particularly dangerous.

"The rescuers that were there said that it was difficult even walking on that road it was so slippery," said Gordon, "You look at that location, and it's been the location of a lot of accidents with the design of the road and that sweeping curve -- it's deceiving. If anything, his age may have played a factor because he just didn't have much experience driving on those kind of roads."

Meanwhile, community support for the popular student and outstanding athlete continues to go strong.

'Pray for Myrel' signs hang on just about every locker in the high school, as about three quarters of the students showed support for their classmate on their heads.

"Myrel's signature trademark was that he wore bandannas a lot," said Frazee Superintendent Chuck Cheney, "So as a tribute and show of support for him, many of the students are wearing them as well."

The school also provided counselors and clergy members for the students this week.

"We've had a lot of volunteers who have been contacting us and saying, 'how can I help' knowing that these kids, who really care for Myrel, are suffering too."

There has been a page set up for Schermerhorn on the Caring Bridge website, as well as benefit accounts set up at Bremer Bank in Detroit Lakes and at United Community Bank in Frazee to offset the mounting medical costs.