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Mom: 'Thanks for helping Ethan'

Shelly Klinger (right) holds her son, Ethan, 4, as she thanks members of the Town of Superior Volunteer Fire Department at the town fire hall Tuesday. Firefighters from the department helped the boy after a car accident along County Highway A on July 24 killed Ethan's father, Warren Klinger. Shelly Klinger said she wanted to let them know Ethan is OK. (Maria Lockwood /

Four-year-old Ethan Klinger is fine. That's the message his mother, Shelly Klinger, brought to volunteer firefighters in the town of Superior this week.

The last time firefighters Bob Zimmerman, Jeff Benson, Sarah MacDonald and Jon Freer saw Ethan, he was being loaded into a Gold Cross Ambulance at the scene of a fatal one-vehicle accident along County Highway A.

"Usually when we close the door to the ambulance, other than word of mouth in the county, we don't have any idea what went on," said Zimmerman, who also is a first responder.

Killed in the accident was Ethan's father, Warren Klinger. Ethan was found standing in the field near the rolled-over truck, according to a Douglas County Sheriff's Department report.

Freer, a first responder, said the Klingers' visit on Tuesday was the first time someone has come back to let them know the outcome of their work. "It means a lot," he said.

Since the accident on July 24, Klinger has fielded a lot of calls about Ethan's condition.

"Everybody's been asking me about it," the Foxboro woman said. "Now at least it'll get out there."

Ethan suffered a small brain hemorrhage and a lung contusion, his mother said. He spent three days in the pediatric intensive care unit at St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth and one day in the pediatric unit, cared for by Dr. Elizabeth Kelly and Dr. Rahul Aggarwal.

Although he has follow-up medical appointments, he's going to be OK.

The firefighters could see Ethan was doing well, despite a sudden bout of shyness.

"Typical 4-year-old," Benson said with a smile.

At the scene of an accident, they concentrate on what they have to do, the volunteers said -- in this case, getting everyone out of the vehicle who needs to get out. Once the adrenaline rush dies down, however, things sink in.

"You think about what just happened," Benson said. "Then it's hard."

Klinger works for St. Mary's Hospital of Superior. While she deals with medical issues daily, this is the first time she's seen the first-responder end of a medical call.

"I'm glad they were there, because I wasn't able to get there," Klinger said. "It gives me peace of mind that somebody was comforting him, even if it couldn't be me."

Klinger said she wanted to give the volunteers who were there for her son a sense of closure and a heartfelt message.

"I just wanted to say thanks for helping Ethan," Klinger said.