SALT LAKE CITY — As many as 10 people jumped into an icy Utah river to help save two trapped children after a car plunged down a 10-foot embankment and flipped over, the state’s Highway Patrol said Sunday.
The rescuers helped turn the Honda Accord upright in the Logan River, and one man shot out the car’s window with a handgun and cut a seat belt to help free the children after Saturday afternoon accident, patrol Lt. Steve Winward said.
The driver, Roger Andersen, 46, of Logan, lost control as he tried to brake while heading northbound on U.S. 89 during slick conditions. His 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were trapped along with a second 9-year-old girl.
“He was panicked, doing everything he could to get in through the doors, but they wouldn’t budge,” said rescuer Chris Willden, who had jumped into the water with his own father after coming upon the crash scene.
Willden, a Department of Defense contractor with a background in law enforcement, shot out one window with his Glock handgun after trying unsuccessfully to open windows and doors. As he reached upward searching for arms and legs, he felt nothing.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘You’re going to see some dead kids, get ready,”’ Willden said. “I’ve got three of my own and it was going to be (an awful) start to the New Year.”
That’s when he turned to see six or so other men scrambling down the bank into the water. Together they pushed up on the vehicle enough so they could see in through the windows.
One of the girls had found an air pocket and was breathing fine but was trapped in her seat belt. Willden cut it with a folding pocket knife and pulled her from the rear passenger window.
He said the other two children were lifeless, the boy upside down in his car seat and the second girl floating in the front passenger compartment.
The boy was cut out of his car seat and pulled out with the other girl.
“I didn’t think they were going to be around for the New Year,” Willden said.