January 02, 2012

Passer-by shoots out window to help rescue children from icy river crash

Former police officer Chris Willden didn't hesitate when he realized children were trapped in an upside down car in an icy Utah river. He pulled his handgun, pushed it up against the submerged windows and shot out the glass.
Then he reached inside.
"I was trying to grab arms, but I couldn't feel anything," Willden said. "I'm thinking ... what are we going to do?'"
But he turned to see up to eight other passers-by had scrambled down the embankment to help after coming upon the accident along U.S. 89 in Logan Canyon on Saturday afternoon.
Highway Patrol Lt. Steve Winward said that after shooting out a window, Willden cut a seatbelt to free one child.
He said the rescuers then helped turn the Honda Accord upright in the Logan River, and lifted it enough to free all three trapped children.
The driver of the Honda Accord had lost control of the car as he tried to brake while heading northbound in slippery conditions.
The Herald Journal News named the driver as Roger Andersen, 46, of Logan, and the trapped occupants as his children Mia, 9, and Baylor, 4. The other occupant, 9-year-old Kenya Wildman, is a family friend.
The group was driving to Beaver Mountain for a day of skiing, it reported.
"(The driver) was panicked, doing everything he could to get in through the doors, but they wouldn't budge," said Willden, who had jumped into the water with his own father.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'You're going to see some dead kids, get ready.' I've got three of my own and it was going to be (an awful) start to the New Year," he added.
Willden said he tried unsuccessfully to open windows and doors. He then used his firearm just as he had done in training for his current job as a bodyguard and Department of Defense contractor.
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 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. Both were pulled from the vehicle.
'Started to breathe' 
Buzzy Mullahkel, of North Logan, told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City that the boy wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse, but was revived when another passer-by performed CPR.
"Emotions started taking over when he started to breathe. Everybody started to cheer. Lots of tears and clapping," said Mullahkel, a father of a 4-year-old.
Willden, 35, of Ogden, was wrapping up his bleeding forearms cut by the broken window when he heard cheers.
"That was awesome," he said. "I knew that's where the little boy was."
He would later learn both the boy and his sister, who were flown by air ambulance to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, had survived.
Bonnie Midget, a hospital spokeswoman, said Sunday both are doing well after spending the night in intensive care.
They were taken out of intensive care Sunday but still in the hospital, listed in fair condition as they recover from hypothermia. Winward said the father and the second girl escaped injury.
Willden noted that both he and his father are both former military/civilian police officers, while his sister and mother are emergency medical technicians.
"It's in our family to go out and help others," he said.
The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report

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