Quick-thinking mom got kids away from scene, but she lost husband and daughter
As Mother’s Day approaches, a community in Wisconsin is hailing the herorism of a local woman in protecting her children, even as her family and friends are grieving the loss of her husband and a daughter.
"You can never underestimate the power of a mother to protect her children," said a physician at Theda Clark Medical Center in Menasha, where Erin Stoffel is recovering from gunshot wounds.
Stoffel took three bullets as she struggled to shield her children from a crazed gunman, who then shot and killed himself. Sadly, her husband, Jon, 33, and daughter, Olivia, 11, were killed. An unrelated pedestrian also was killed.
The young family of five was taking a customary Sunday evening bike ride across a bridge over Little Lake Butte des Morts when a 27-year-old man apparently upset after an argument with his ex-fiancee showed up with two handguns. He seemed to not know the victims but opened fire randomly.
Stoffel shuffled her 7-year-old son, Ezra, and 5-year-old daughter, Selah, off the pedestrian bridge, CNN said. With the perpetrator still firing, she then sent Ezra to get help.
"Despite being shot multiple times, Ms. Stoffel was able to … (instruct) her young son to go run for assistance," said Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka. "Absolutely amazing."
Barry Busby, the Winnebago County coroner, also praised her quick thinking.
"True heroes going into an act of fire, where they don’t know what’s out there on this unprotected bridge, but trying to save other people," Busby said. "And I think their fast response helped save a lot of people."
"To have three gunshot wounds and be able to get off that bridge and save two of her children is incredible to think about," said Dr. Ray Georgen at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah said Monday. "It’s an amazing story of heroism on her part and certainly of her children."
By Tuesday evening, a GoFundMe campaign had raised over $103,000 for the family.