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Survivor of deadly crash eyes becoming cop

Jaxon Harberts, fishing, hayfield
Jaxon Harberts, who loves to fish, graduated from Hayfield High School last month. He is determined to turn his family’s tragedy into a positive of becoming a cop. Submitted photo
Alex Malm, Contributing Writer
“I wanted to figure out a career where I could help the community.”
-Jaxon Harberts, Crash Survivor

Jaxon Harberts knows first-hand what happens when people drive recklessly. 

A crash in 2018 on Highway 14 outside of Claremont killed his mom Rachel, sister Emerson and left him badly hurt with multiple concussions and months of rehab in order to be able to walk. 

The driver of the vehicle, Tanner R. Kruckeberg, was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in a grossly negligent manner, after it was determined he was not only speeding, but was distracted on his cell phone. 

Harberts, now 18, graduated from Hayfield High School last month and hopes to bring his story to the road one day— as a cop. He previously had attended school in Blooming Prairie.

He will be attending Alexandria Technical & Community College this fall to pursue the law enforcement program. 

“I wanted to figure out a career where I could help the community,” Harberts said. 


Walking to running 


When Harberts was in the hospital following the crash, his whole focus was trying to get out, and to get better.  

He was badly hurt, his sister and mother died, and the active seventh grader was forced to use a wheelchair.

“I was really just focused on how I can make each of these days count,” Harberts said. “I was just focused on what I could make positive about the day and what I could improve on to keep moving forward.”

One of the first things Harberts remembers from that dark time in his life was maneuvering around the hospital in his wheelchair.

“There was no function or anything there,” he said about walking. 

He eventually got strong enough to transition to a walker. His dad Brandon took him on strolls through the hospital at night. 

“We started with just going around in the wheelchair, and he would get me out and keep me moving,” Harberts said. “And then eventually it built up to us walking through the hospital at night. So that was helpful. And then I eventually built up to the point where I could walk by myself. “

By the fall of 2020, he wasn’t just walking he was running competitively in cross country. 

After suffering multiple concussions, he decided to put football to the side and pursue cross country instead. 

“That was another interesting step from not being able to walk for two months, and I actually enjoyed it a whole lot,” Harberts said. 

Aside from cross country, he was also a golfer and played basketball during his high school career, saying he focused on being a three-sport athlete and staying busy. 


Move to Hayfield


By the end of his sophomore year, once he started driving, he realized how much gas costs, and the hassle of filling up the gas tank once a week. 

He moved near Oslo a couple of years after the crash and decided the commute to Blooming Prairie was too far. 

“Once I switched over to Hayfield, I was able to just easily run home and do something after school before I had to go to practice,” Harberts said.

He knew some of the other students at Hayfield, but still he was a new student, which meant finding a new friend group and getting used to a new school. 

It didn’t take him long to find his way though, once again persevering. 

“After those two weeks I found it pretty easy to meet new people and blend with a group and whatnot,” Harberts said. 


Giving Back 


This September will mark the five-year anniversary of the crash that changed Harberts’ life forever.

While not difficult to drive by, Harberts still gets a feeling when he drives by the location of the crash.

It’s a feeling, he never wants another family to have to experience, due to reckless driving. 

After looking at a career as a trainer, Harberts decided against it. He decided to go to Alexandria Technical & Community College instead. 

“I picked it because it's the best police school in the state. So, I was like, if I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna go to the best and become the best version of myself to become the best person to give back to the people,” Harberts said. 

Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose and his team will never forget the crash, saying he is happy to hear about Harberts looking to make a career out of law enforcement. 

“The Harberts crash was a tragic incident for all of us here at DCSO – one of those crashes that made us all go home and hug our spouses and our kids,” Rose said.

The sheriff met Harberts for the first time 11 months after the crash. During the Citizens Awards, Jim Royer, a truck driver for McNeilus Steel, received a letter of recognition from the Sheriff’s Office for stopping to help save Jaxon’s life at the crash scene.   

“Jaxon and his father Brandon were there to thank Mr. Royer, and I was so impressed by his level of recovery and his positive attitude,” said Rose. “It’s been so rewarding to see Jaxon’s accomplishments over the last several years growing up to be an amazing young man. To find out his interest in law enforcement is just fantastic – he is exactly the type of young hero we need in law enforcement. I couldn’t be more proud of Jaxon. I also couldn’t be more proud of his father Brandon for raising such a great kid after everything they’ve been through!”       

The past couple of days, Harberts said, he has been thinking of what his traffic stops may look like as a cop. 

“I feel like I could give them my story and tell them firsthand. ‘Hey, I'm not doing this because I don't like you. I'm doing this because I've experienced what it's like when people speed and they can cause more danger than you think,” he said.

For Harberts, becoming a cop is turning tragedy into something positive while at the same time giving back to those who helped him.

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