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Logan Parnell, 9, of Somerset, stands in the ditch near his home just off County Road I where he spotted his neighbor in need of medical assistance earlier this summer. (Photo by Micheal Foley)

Boy spots injured woman in ditch, gets help

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Logan Parnell, 9, of the Town of Somerset, was tardy on his last Thursday of third grade -- sports day. Without a really good excuse, he wouldn't be able to participate in his class sports day.


But Logan did have a good excuse. He was helping a neighbor through a medical emergency.

As Sheila Parnell, Logan's mom, began driving him to school that day, she came to a T-intersection just feet from her driveway, looked right and turned left.

While most kids his age have their heads buried in handheld gaming devices, Logan is always paying attention and on the lookout for wildlife, according to Sheila. At about 7:50 that morning, Logan's eagle eyes made a big difference when he spotted something out of the ordinary in the ditch nearly 100 yards away on the cold, drizzly day in early June.

"I saw a hand and her face, and I said, 'Mom, there's somebody over there,'" Logan said. "We turned around and we saw her."

It turned out to be the Parnells' neighbor Jennifer Autio.

"I was walking my dog before work, like I usually do on a retractable leash," Autio said. "He must have smelled something and took off into the bushes off the side of the road. I tried to pull him back, and somehow the collar disconnected from the leash. All the sudden I was falling backwards, and I hit the pavement, landed on my hip and fractured my hip."

With her cell phone charging in her car in her driveway, Autio struggled to drag herself where she could be more easily be spotted from the intersection. She laid alongside the quiet country road just off County Road I for nearly 90 minutes before Sheila and Logan came along.

As they drove up to Autio, Sheila said she thought the woman may have been hit by a car because her coffee cup and retractable leash were far flung from where she was laying.

Autio quickly explained what the dog had done, and that she thought her hip was broken.

"Logan ran to the house with Ollie (the dog) and got him put away," Autio said. "Sheila went with him and grabbed my cell phone so I could call my husband."

Todd Parnell, Logan's dad, called 911, and Logan and Sheila brought Autio blankets and drinking water while they waited for first responders to arrive.

According to dispatch records, Somerset First Responders, Somerset Fire & Rescue, St. Croix County Sheriff's deputies and an ambulance crew from Lakeview Hospital responded to the scene.

It's been more than two months since the incident, and Autio is still recovering and getting around with the assistance of crutches, and she has plenty of words of thanks for Logan.

"It was quite a morning, and I'm thankful they came by," Autio said. "Logan is a great kid. He just snapped into action. It was not any fun laying out there, so it was wonderful that they came by and did what they did."

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley joined RiverTown Multimedia in July 2013 and serves as editor at the New Richmond News. In the past he has worked at several news outlets including in Hudson, Wis., the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif., the Leader-Telegram in Eau Claire, Wis., and the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn. He began his career as a Marine Corps journalist. He served as a reporter and photographer in Okinawa, Japan, and editor of the base newspaper at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls.
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