On June 3rd KELOLAND News reported a pickup versus motorcycle crash in northern Minnehaha County. The crash happened just after 6:00 p.m. at the intersection of 248th Street and 470th Avenue in rural Dell Rapids.
The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s office says a motorcycle was traveling northbound on 470th Ave when it was hit by an eastbound pickup that failed to stop at the intersection.
The couple on that motorcycle weren’t wearing helmets, but survived, and are now sharing their story.
It’s a peaceful day along this road in rural Dell Rapids.
Driving along rows of cropland, past a church and under blue open sky.
But the night of June 3rd, was nothing short of a horror story on this seemingly-peaceful stretch.
“I remember the whole thing. That’s what everybody asks me. Were you unconscious? I wish I was. I wouldn’t have felt the pain, it was excruciating pain you know,” Russell Thomas said.
This mangled motorcycle belonged to Thomas and Tania Fredricks.
“Russell said, ‘Hang on babe, we’re going to get hit,’ and I looked over and all I saw was this truck and all it had was one of these cattle guards on it, and that’s all I saw,” Tania said.
The couple was T-boned by a Dodge Ram pickup and life flashed before their eyes.
Russell was airlifted by helicopter and Tania transported by ambulance, both in critical condition.
“I just remember hearing her screaming in agony and it just killed me that I couldn’t help,” Russell said.
“You think of that kid that did this to us and I think why? What were we doing? We were just out for a ride going to see our friend Christina and Trevor. We were almost there,” Tania said.
Less than two months later, this is the couple’s new normal.
“This is the second time this lung has been collapsed. I split my face in half. As you can see, they’ve got metal plates in there now,” Russell said.
Living with one leg each, countless injuries and pain plaguing every day life.
“I do feel anger because I lost a lot. You know, she lost a lot. and our lives will never be the same,” Russell said.
“I rely on my daughter Brooke. She turned her whole life around to help me. And not once has she complained, not once,” Tania said.
The couple keeps everything low to the ground in their Sioux Falls home and closely follows a laundry list of medications.
“I just want to try and heal so we both can have legs to walk, to dance, to have a normal life,” Tania said.
Helping them have a normal life is Rebecca Skinner.
She’s not family, nor a friend, or even an acquaintance.
She’s a complete stranger, an angel, Russell and Tania never knew existed.
“Just everything that they’ve gone through, I just knew this is what I needed to do,” Skinner said.
For the past ten years, Skinner has organized benefits for complete strangers.
Strangers, like Russell and Tania, who have become fast friends.
“I don’t even know Rebecca, I just met her today and she’s just putting it on, she doesn’t even know us, so, ‘Thank you so much Rebecca, you’re awesome,’ Tania said.
Now Russell and Tania share a similar message, to both the woman who is helping turn their lives around and to the man who changed their lives forever.
It’s just two words: slow down.
Slow down for those who share the road and slow down to help those who need a hand.
“If we don’t work together, there is no ‘us’. All we are is greedy people if we don’t work together. And you just stop and slow down and realize, ‘Hey life goes by so fast, you need to just slow down,'” Tania said.
Skinner’s benefit will help Tania and Russell both afford $5,000 prosthetics that need to be replaced every three years.
It’s happening at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Double D’s Saloon in Brandon.
For more details on the benefit, visit the event page on Facebook.