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3 DSU drownings bring awareness to rescue tool

Courtesy Photo The 3-inch ResQMe tool, shown here attached to a keychain, features a blade for cutting seatbelts and a spring-loaded device designed to break car windows in case of an emergency.

In an effort to prevent a similar scenario from taking place, friends of one of three Dickinson State University students who recently drowned have had potentially life-saving tools imprinted in her memory. Officials at DSU may use the same idea.

Kyrstin Gemar, 22, Ashley Neufeld, 21, Afton Williamson, 20, as well as a dog drowned near Dickinson in November. They were found in a vehicle submerged in a pond on private property, authorities say. All three women played DSU softball.

Tracy Turner, a Winnipeg woman who is friends with the Neufeld family, has had 1,000 of the ResQMe tools imprinted with Ashley Neufeld's name.

ResQMe is a 3-inch tool that can be clipped to a keychain, said Laurent Colasse, owner of Nov8, the company that created ResQMe. The tool features a spring-loaded system that can break through a car window, Colasse said. It also has a blade to cut through a seatbelt.

"Bringing her name up will bring some recognition to it and hopefully get people thinking about that type of an accident and prevent it from happening," Turner said. "We are using this tool to sort of bring awareness to this type of tragedy and hope that no one will go through what all three of these families have gone through."

Bev Neufeld, Ashley Neufeld's mother, expects the imprinted tools will be available this weekend at the Source for Sports store in Brandon, Manitoba. She is part-owner of the store.

"People have come up to me and said that they purchased them shortly after the accident, not with Ashley's name on it, but because of the accident, so people have gotten more aware of the tool because of the accident," Bev Neufeld said.

There were originally 500 imprinted tools ordered and they were going to distribute them among friends and family, Bev Neufeld said. However, since word has spread, several people have inquired about them and another 500 have been ordered.

"I'm kind of overwhelmed," Bev Neufeld said. "I think it's wonderful and I think not only Ashley but the three girls have touched people all over the continent, so I'm kind of proud of that as well."

Other businesses in Brandon have agreed to distribute the imprinted tools, Bev Neufeld said. She added they are working on getting companies in Winnipeg to sell them.

"Obviously, if we can save one life here locally because of it, that would make me feel wonderful," Bev Neufeld said.

Colasse, who has been working with Turner on imprinting the tools, said sale of the tools normally spikes around tragedies. Names of companies have been imprinted on the tools, but this is the first time the company will be imprinting the name of a person lost in an accident, Colasse said.

Officials at DSU are "strongly considering" launching a similar plan to imprint and distribute the tools, said Hal Haynes, DSU vice president for student development. Haynes said they would represent the three women.

"We're looking at how this applies in it's entirety to the AKA issue -- Afton, Ashley and Kyrstin," Haynes said. "We're looking at that and of course looking at it from a comprehensive standpoint of where it all fits in with our overall efforts with ongoing memorials and currently established scholarship plans through our foundation."

For more information about ResQMe, visit