Pushing forward

Katie and Joe Blanchette are pictured with Courtland Fire Chief Dave Ubel at the family’s “Life is Good” party last September. It was the first time Joe was able to stand since his accident. Submitted photos

The year 2020 was tough on everyone. For Joe Blanchette and his family, the pandemic was the least of their concerns.

On a cold November day that left drivers dealing with a freezing rain and snow mix, Blanchette was on his way from New Ulm to Mankato for work. About 3 miles out of Courtland on Hwy. 14, Blanchette’s life would be altered in a major way.

A pickup, driving considerably faster than Blanchette, hit the rumble strip and swerved into his lane, hitting the van he was driving head-on. He had no chance to avoid the collision. Blanchette’s van was force into the ditch. The steering column was impacted to the point where it was pushed into his chest.

“There was no room to try and pry it off of his chest,” Blanchette’s wife, Katie, said. “Joe could hardly breathe and was gasping for breath. The dash was up by his ears. Glass was all over the floor of the cab, and air bags were deployed all around him.”

See more in this week’s paper.