Skip to content

10/3/2007 – News

Volume 124, Number 35            Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Benson County families involved in tragic accidents
Editor’s note: The following story, which originally appeared in the Cass County Recorder at Casselton concerns several people with Benson County connections. Paula Bartsch is the daughter of Erling and Sandy Karlsbraaten of Maddock.

Kevin Bartsch is the son of Marion Bartsch of Harvey and the late Victor Bartsch, who lived south of Esmond. David Reierson is the son of Gene and Janice Reierson of Esmond. The late Tiffany Johnson is the daughter of Mark and Sherri Johnson of Casselton. Her grandparents are Lois Johnson of Maddock and the late Merwyn Johnson and Irving Olson of Mandan and the late Isie Olson, who lived south of Harlow.


Cass County Reporter

(Casselton, ND)

Ryan Bartsch’s death should not be in vain.

That’s the belief his mother Paula carries with her from day to day, and it fuels her energy.

On August 19, 16-year-old Ryan died from injuries he suffered as a passenger in a car accident a week earlier. His death was the second auto-related fatality in as many months in the city of Casselton, and the reflection of what has become in many eyes an epidemic for Ryan’s age group nationwide.

Although the pain brings her to tears on a daily basis, Paula Bartsch has had little time to grieve the loss of her son. Her daily energy is fueled by anger, and the belief that something must be done on a large scale in North Dakota to reduce the number of auto-related deaths among the area’s young people.

Nationally, North Dakota statistics are among the worst — a cocktail for disaster with the current driving laws. The state ranks 10th in automobile deaths involving a teenager. It leads the nation with the youngest driver permit eligibility age of 14. And it also leads the nation in underage drinking, and alcohol-related fatalities.

Those numbers don’t reflect well on young drivers in rural Cass. Just in the last four years before Ryan’s death, three other students from Cass County have perished, each in a separate automobile accident.

Paula and Kevin Bartsch haven’t identified yet how they’ll turn their energy into something positive. Both admit that it’s easy to look at the driving age, and the lack of restrictions on passengers and cell phone usage as easy targets

— until the reality hits that those are all very large targets, and all involve the sometimes seemingly deaf ears of the state legislature.

"Who do you contact?" said Kevin. "How many battles do you fight?"

Pooling the resources of other parents who share the same concerns as the Bartschs may be the answer, he believes. "We’re not going to change the world, but if we can save one or two lives, it’s worth it."

Even after the family’s loss, Paula still beams when she talks about Ryan. She wears his class ring on her left hand, and occasionally puts on his T-shirts. Ryan’s room is essentially the way he left it on August 16, with half-finished pop and energy drinks near his Xbox video game console. In the basement, a near life-sized vinyl poster stands next to Kevin’s sitting chair, a testament to the son who also loved hunting. The energy of Ryan is still in the house, and Paula admits that she can sense it on a daily basis.

"I thought I saw him at the foot of the bed the other day, and it scared the hell out of me," she said with a smile. "I can feel it — he’s in a comfortable place."

"Ryan is our driving force," she continued. "He’s the driving force for us to make a difference."

Classmates Nick Voss and Matt Peterson, both 16, were good friends of Ryan’s at Central Cass. They remember their buddy as a guy who wasn’t really all that bothered that most of his friends already had a driver’s license. "He really didn’t think of it as a problem," said Peterson.

Voss said that some of the proposed changes to teenage driving laws would be a good idea, others not so good. "People at our school wouldn’t like the cell phone proposal, but I agree with the passenger [restriction,]" he said. "My parents talk about that all the time. At nighttime, I drive by myself."

Both Voss and Peterson admit they have classmates whose behavior in the car makes them nervous.

"You’re just not in control," Voss said. "I have some friends I won’t even take with me."

Twelve-year-olds Sheyenne Weber, Sadie Farquhar, and Julia Kensok are all 7th grade classmates of Ryan’s younger sister, Paige. Each of them less than two years away from becoming driver permit eligible, those three girls have begun to shape their own opinions about youth and automobile safety in the wake of the tragedy.

"I wouldn’t like that," said Weber, after being asked if increasing the driver’s license eligibility age would make a difference. "But if I were an adult, I wouldn’t want those young drivers out there. It depends on who you are."

Farquhar said the issue isn’t just about driving, but about passenger responsibility. "It’s about not getting into the car with others who go fast, or anyone you’re not comfortable with."

All three said that as seventh graders, they already could identify which classmates may become risky drivers, based on their exhibited behavior. "Some of them are way too hyper," said Farquhar.

"And some are just not very focused," added Kensok.

"At times, it all makes me afraid of even traveling in a car," said Weber.

Paul Conlin is the executive director of Cars and Kids, Inc., a Fargo-based non-profit which is attempting to tackle youth driver issues by the ankles. Its mission is to help bring parents and their teenagers together in a learning environment to talk about today’s traffic safety issues. Featured speakers include MADD/SADD chapter representatives, Cahill Law Firm, Dawson Insurance Agency, and the Fargo Police Department. Legal professionals also present information during the programs to help families protect themselves legally and financially in the event of an accident or other moving violation.

The format of all presentations is intended to be completely neutral.

Conlin embarked on his mission to educate while a stay-at-home dad in north Fargo. Rerouted traffic through his neighborhood near the El Zagal Temple building on Elm Street caused Conlin to notice an increase in the average speed of young drivers passing by his house. He came to the realization that if he wanted something done to protect his two young children, he should do it himself. Now

— three years later — the Cars for Kids organization is Conlin’s full-time job, and it is funded entirely on grants and corporate sponsorship. The organization holds bi-monthly educational seminars for parents and teens in Fargo, and Conlin takes his mission on the road

— to audiences in schools and other venues throughout the region. The presentations are meant for both teens and their parents, together.

Conlin gets through to his audience using a variety of resources, including testimony. One of his regular speakers is David Reierson, who was blinded 12 years ago because of a car accident.

Reierson — just by coincidence — is a cousin of the Bartsch family.

On occasion, Conlin will use more graphic subject matter, such as photographs from an accident scene. But he doesn’t rely heavily on scare tactics. "There’s so much different evidence when it comes to that method," he said. "But kids do need to see reality for what it is. They spend so much time immersed in non-reality things. And you can’t stop wanting to show them the reality. It’s scary going through this stuff — it’s scary how it would be if they were no longer there."

Cars and Kids presentations also dish out a healthy dose of statistics. "The statistics tell parents that if their teen gets a ticket [for a moving violation], their teen has just entered a driver category with a forty-two percent fatality rate," he explained. "If you knew that your teen had just jumped into that fatality rate, what would you do? It’s clear-cut. We’re empowering parents to get to the issues. That’s why we’re successful."

Conlin doesn’t believe the answer to the epidemic lies in the halls of Congress. He believes the answer is within the parent-child relationship and better education programs.

"I’m not one to debate legislation," said Conlin, a 45-year-old father of two. "That dictates so much of what we can accomplish."

Conlin said that enacting cell phone legislation for young drivers isn’t a viable option, because it isn’t enforceable. "There’s not one law enforcement officer who can [consistently] differentiate between a 16- and a 30-year-old driver," he said. "I don’t believe that taking that freedom away will solve anything. What we have to do is make a more concerted effort about consequences. In their education from day one, these kids need to see what the consequences are of their actions. I’m tired of kid-bashing. It’s our responsibility as parents to be better educators."

Conlin credits his personal faith in helping grow the Cars and Kids, Inc. program. One of the organization’s new efforts is a Christian-based support group, which meets on a bi-monthly basis.

"Right now, in the two and a half to three years of Cars and Kids, I have so many families affected by this issue who have nowhere to go,"

he said. "They need to find a place, and find healing."

Reaching out to spread awareness of the teen driving issue, Conlin has created the "Teen Traffic Safety Ad Challenge," a campaign and competition that will publicize the dangers teens face as young drivers today. "The message that resonates most with them I believe will come from them," he said.

(The two campaigns that deliver the strongest message will win their young creators a car.

Conlin said he is seeking businesses that will sponsor teens to compete.) Having recently met with the state highway patrol, Conlin is hoping to turn the winning Cars and Kids advertisements into a state or national campaign. "I want a traffic safety message that comes from kids, not from some 45-year-old father of two," he remarked.

"We do have the ability and resources to make a difference."

Both Conlin and the Bartschs believe that a change in the numbers of accidents involving young people is achievable in the near future.

And while neither wants to take on the state’s driving laws alone, they believe that an increase of advocacy will help. Both do feel that the funding for such can come from other funding already within the state budgets. As an example, Conlin posed the question why DUI penalty revenue is directed toward enforcement.

"We need a fund where it goes toward prevention programs," he remarked. "It should not be a revenue stream for the state. And these [DUI offenders] need to be paying for prevention programs."

Paula Bartsch believes that the driver’s education program in North Dakota does need an overhaul. "We need to incorporate more time behind the wheel for these kids," she said.

"Alcohol and meth get a lot of attention in this state — but driving and teen deaths should be just as important."

(The Cars and Kids, Inc. program seminars are free to the public and are hosted on a bi-monthly basis in the Dakota West Boardroom of BlueCross BlueShield of North Dakota. Registration is required to attend; families are encouraged to call 701-866-3761 or e-mail "" to participate. More information is available on the Web at

Parents Paula and Kevin Bartsch, center, are moving forward to raise awareness of the dangers facing teen drivers, following the death of their 16-year-old son, Ryan. Slowly finding a path to make a difference, they and their daughter Paige,

12 (bottom right), have relied on the support and ears of family and friends to help them cope.

Ryan’s classmates Matt Peterson (top left) and Nick Voss have become part of that support.

(Photo by Tim Morrissey, Cass County Reporter)

Paul Conlin, founder of Cars and Kids, Inc., (pictured here with his son, Dexter) is a man on a mission.

Young man with county roots brings work home to share with students at Maddock
Boys and their toys. We know how men love gadgets and anything with a motor in it that can go fast or make loud noises. Guess what ladies, that fever can take hold of us, too.
Yes, I was gripped by the "toys" fever September 27 when a Blackhawk helicopter landed on the football practice field at Maddock School.
Talk about an awesome sight! The best part was that a fellow alumnus was manning the stick.
Second Lieutenant Joshua Yri is a 1997 graduate of Minnewaukan High School and the son of Curt and Terry Yri of Minnewaukan. One month after graduation he was off to basic training and served three years of active duty with the Army at Fort Bragg, NC. Yri then joined the North Dakota Army National Guard and has been stationed in Bismarck.
Flying with him to Maddock for an outside lyceum were co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Connelly and Staff Sergeant and crew chief Brian Zins. The men are part of the 1-112 Aviation Battalion of the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Their trip in the Blackhawk UH-60A took 40 minutes from Bismarck to Maddock, where Yri landed the craft at 9 a.m.
Top speed on this particular chopper is 221 miles per hour, or 193 knots. Due to the northwest winds blowing at 22 to 29 mph, they cruised at 130 knots (150 mph) and had to travel in more of a westerly direction than "as the crow flies." A straight shot at top speed with little wind would maybe have shaved another 10 minutes off their flight time.
According to crew chief Zins this Blackhawk was built in 1987. It can carry a maximum of 15 people, three crew members and 12 passengers or, if being used as an air ambulance, six litters of wounded with a five-member crew.
The chopper is approximately 65 feet long and 12? feet high with a rotor diameter of almost 54 feet. Empty the craft is 11,284 pounds, while its gross weight is 22,000 pounds and 24,500 pounds with the external tanks attached. It can carry 360 gallons of fuel and another 1,360 gallons externally. How would you like to fill that at the pumps today?
There is a hook on the underside that gives the Blackhawk the ability to lift and move up to 8,000 pounds. Its two engines are General Electric with a shaft horsepower of 1,560 each.
Zins said the 2007 models aren’t much different from this one. The life-span of a copter depends on the amount spent on repairs and maintenance versus the original cost. Once those numbers are equal, a machine is retired from service. This ship has another 10 years or so of service. Its replacement cost is $4,635,000.
He didn’t have a complete history of where Blackhawk 629 has been, but knew it was in Bosnia before coming to Bismarck.
The entire school and a few locals were there to watch Yri gently set the plastic and aluminum craft on the ground. Some practice dummies used by the football team went rolling and a dirt cloud billowed. The rain Maddock has gotten lately helped keep the blowing dirt to a minimum.
Once the chopper was secure, the tour began. The first, second and third graders got to go first. Connelly gave a brief description of the machine and then asked for questions.
One of the children noticed there weren’t any parachutes. When asked where they were, Connelly said, "We don’t get parachutes because if we jumped out our heads would get chopped off!" Amid the "oh, gross" and "how yucky" were a few nods of understanding.
All the children got a turn inside the Blackhawk, whether it was in the cargo/passenger area or the cockpit. They were given firm instructions not to touch anything and Yri commented that you watch the best you can and then double-check everything before takeoff.
A few residents of the Memorial Home and some townspeople were there. Veterans viewing the chopper were sometimes lost in memory, while the children were taking their turns and pretending.
Maddock School arranged this demonstration through their home economic teacher and the pilot’s mother, Terry. A recruiter from the nearest center must receive the request, which is then passed on to the national guard’s state headquarters in Bismarck.
Specialist First Class Dean Lundin of the Devils Lake recruiting office put the request through and when a chopper and crew became available, the trip was planned.
Last week the crew did some reconnaissance when returning to Bismarck from Camp Grafton, near Devils Lake. After all, it’s nice to know how much room you have to work with when landing.
When the crew finished in Maddock — after lunch with the kids in the cafeteria — they were on their way to the Harvey School to "wow" them and answer questions like, "Can you lift a tank?"
No, they can’t lift a tank, but they are always there for us. As the saying goes, when you call out the Guard, you call out America.

Members of the 1-112 Aviation Battalion of the North Dakota Army National Guard were in Maddock Thursday, Sept. 27 to show school students a Blackhawk UH-60A helicopter and explain its function. The visit was arranged through the guard’s recruiting office in Devils Lake. Left to right are Staff Sergeant and crew chief Brian Zins, Minnewaukan native Second Lieutenant Joshua Yri, recruiter SFC Dean Lundin and Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Connelly. The men, who are stationed at the headquarters in Bismarck, spent a little over two hours at the school talking with the children and community members who were there to view the chopper.

Old friends
Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Connelly is greeted by Dwight Leier of Esmond. While Connelly’s wife, Jeanne taught at Esmond they became good friends of Dwight and Penny Leier. The Leiers enjoyed getting a chance to visit and see what Connelly does now.

These 3rd grade boys, Evan Eyl on the left and Spencer Sears on the right, think flying a copter might be a neat thing to do.

We girls like the big toys, too. From left to right are 2nd grader Brianna Johnson, 3rd grader Rebecca Johnson and 1st grader Talissa Aabrekke checking out the cockpit of the Blackhawk.

Second Lieutenant Joshua Yri proudly poses with his mother, Terry Yri. Mrs. Yri is a teacher at the Maddock School and helped arrange the demonstration.

Students visit pumpkin patch
Leeds Elementary classes K through 6 visited the corn maze and pumpkin patch at the Jim and Judy Engstrom farm east of Leeds on September 21. Students enjoyed finding hidden letters in the corn maze and then each student picked out a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch. Jim and Judy Engstrom are pictured with students in grades K through 3 with their pumpkins.

Minnewaukan-Leeds takes fifth at Grafton Invitational tournament
The Minnewaukan-Leeds Lions girls volleyball team participated in the Grafton Invitational Saturday, Sept. 29. The girls advanced from Pool D to the Gold Bracket after defeating Stephen-Argyle (Minn.) 2-0 and Midway 2-0.
In the Gold Bracket quarterfi-nals the Lions butted heads with Grafton in three close games. Grafton was a little more hard-headed handing them a 2-1 loss and putting Minnewaukan-Leeds in the consolation semifinals.
Not ones to give up, the girls beat Thompson 2-1 for a chance to claim fifth place in the tournament.
Meeting the Lions on the court was a team they were familiar with since the girls handed them a loss early in the season. The Wells County Bears were hoping to get revenge for that Sept. 4 sweep, but Minnewaukan-Leeds knew the weaknesses to exploit and took home fifth place with a 2-0 win.

M-L 25 25

Stephen-Argyle 21 23

M-L: kills – Jordan Callahan 4, Alyssa Erickson 4, Bobbi Grann 2, Alisha Strand 2, Katrece Thompson 1, Amber Bracken 1, Denage Braaten 1; aces – Thompson 1, Grann 1, Callahan 1, Erickson 1; assists – Thompson 7, Erickson 2; digs – Callahan 5, Strand 5, Thompson 4, Bracken 4, Braaten 4, Grann 3, Nicole Herman 2, Erickson 2.

S-A: no stats available.

M-L 25 25

Midway 14 7

M-L: kills – Callahan 5, Grann 3, Thompson 2, Braaten 2, Erickson 2, Herman 1, Bracken 1, Strand 1; aces – Erickson 6, Strand 2, Callahan 1; assists – Thompson 10, Callahan 1, Bracken 1, Strand 1, Erickson 1; digs – Thompson 8, Bracken 8, Callahan 5, Strand 4, Braaten 2, Herman 1, Grann 1.

Midway: no stats available.

M-L 23 25 9

Grafton 25 22 15

M-L: kills – Bracken 6, Braaten 6, Grann 4, Erickson 4, Thompson 2, Callahan 2; aces – Braaten 3; assists – Thompson 14, Braaten 2, Erickson 2, Strand 1; digs – Bracken 14, Callahan 12, Thompson 6, Braaten 5, Grann 4, Herman 1, Strand 1.

Grafton: no stats available.

M-L 27 19 15

Thompson 25 25 9

M-L: kills – Bracken 7, Strand 4, Braaten 4, Erickson 4, Grann 3; aces – Erickson 3, Grann 2, Callahan 1, Strand 1, Braaten 1; assists – Thompson 17, Erickson 1; digs – Bracken 10, Callahan 9, Grann 6, Herman 4, Strand 4, Braaten 4, Thompson 2, Erickson 1.

Thompson: no stats available.

M-L 25 25

Wells County 17 12

M-L: kills – Bracken 4, Grann 3, Callahan 3, Erickson 3, Strand 2, Herman 1, Thompson 1; aces

– Grann 2, Herman 1, Thompson 1, Callahan 1, Strand 1; assists – Thompson 10, Callahan 1, Bracken 1, Strand 1; digs – Bracken 7, Thompson 6, Braaten 6, Grann 2, Callahan 2, Strand 2, Herman 1, Erickson 1.

WC: kills – Cheyenne Unterseher 6, Misty Rappuhn 2, Kayla Houchin 1; aces – Houchin 1, Sam Maxwell 1, Unterseher 1; assists – Houchin 4, July Erfle 2, Savannah Jones 1, Maxwell 1; digs – Amy Klindworth 11, Rappuhn 10, Unterseher 2, Maxwell 2, Houchin 1, Jones 1.

A good day’s work
The Minnewaukan-Leeds Lions girls’ volleyball team is shown with the 5th place plaque they won at the Grafton Invitational volleyball tournament on Saturday, Sept. 29. Standing, left to right, are Katrece Thompson, Alisha Strand, Denage Braaten, Nicole Herman, Jordan Callahan, Amber Bracken and Bobbi Grann. Alyssa Erickson is kneeling. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Herman)

Reading winners
Oberon Elementary School "Read! Read! Read!" award winners for the month of September are pictured, left to right, back row, Chyenne DeMarce (6th grade), Bryeann Robertson (3rd grade), Tiana Thumb (3rd grade), Emily Thumb (5th grade), Eugene TwoHearts (5th grade) and Dolan Old Rock (5th grade). Middle row: Bryson Robertson (4th grade), Shirissa Buckles (4th grade), Darica Deckert (4th grade), Jacen Deckert (1st grade), Shirley Driver (2nd grade) and Nakia Hill (6th grade). Front row: Louie Black Lance (2nd grade), Alexis Driver (1st grade), Destanee Black (2nd grade) and Felix Black (kindergarten).

Home has new patio
The Maddock Memorial Home raised money from the 2006 Tree of Hope at Christmas to be used for a handicapped-accessible entrance/automatic door and patio area. The project was completed in July and residents have been enjoying the ease of accessibility, as there are no steps going into the entrance anymore. The new patio improves the appearance and is in the right location for everyone to enjoy.
Pictured in the new patio area are, left to right, standing, Lorraine Hellerud, Joyce Vallier, Ruth Sorenson, Hilda Kotaska, Leo Marquart, Bennie Marquart and Mike Fritel. Seated are Stella Benson, Orville Stadum, Doris Lysne, Victoria Skold, Margaret Jacobson, Ansel Haukness, Lillian Moran, Mamie Johnson and Ruth Nelson. These are many of the residents who posed September 27 prior to an outing at Sully’s Hill to look at the fall foliage.
This year’s Tree of Hope project will be updating the front entry and sitting room in the near future. This room has not had a facelift since 1993. The carpet and wallpaper will be replaced and new furniture will be installed, including a firmer couch for ease of getting up and new glider rockers. This room gives the first impression visitors have of the home. It is estimated the cost will be approximately $7,000. A personal donation of $2,000 has been received to start the fund drive. All memorial funds will also be applied toward this project. Hometown Helper grant funds have been applied for. Those who would like to show support for the project may visit

Drag racers compete
Maddock area drag racers competed this summer at the Minot Dakota Flat Track. Brad Johnson is pictured with a Super Trophy he won in his class. His Buick has a 400 small block Chevy engine and the car runs an ET of 9.62 @ 74 mph in 1/8th mile. The details of this type of racing are too complicated to explain in this space. Suffice it to say that his car is a fast one and he is a skilled driver.

Pro Street racer Josh Backstrom is pictured with his Olds Cutlass with a 350 engine. The car runs ET of 8.86 @ 80 mph in 1/8th mile.

Pro Street racer Terry Hermanson is pictured with his 1967 Chevy Chevelle with a 454 engine. The car runs ET of 8.51 @ 82 mph in 1/8th mile.

Leave a Comment