Rescuers recall 'distinct voice' that spurred them to rescue trapped toddler
'We know there was some other help there,' officer said
Chelsey Allder, Deseret News
SPANISH FORK — Four Spanish Fork police officers all said they heard it.
"We've gotten together and just talkin' about it, and all four of us can swear that we heard somebody inside the car saying, 'Help,'" officer Jared Warner recalled Sunday.
But when they flipped the vehicle resting on its hood in the Spanish Fork River onto its side Saturday, they discovered there was no one inside able to speak.
"The only people in there were the deceased mother and the child," said officer Bryan Dewitt.
"We're not exactly sure where that voice came from," Warner told the Deseret News.
But because of the actions of those officers and several Spanish Fork firefighters, 18-month-old Lily was rescued. She remained at Primary Children's Hospital Sunday in critical condition but was reported to be stable.
Police believe Lily was upside down, strapped in her car seat for up to 14 hours. Her mother, Lynn Jennifer "Jenny" Groesbeck, was killed in the crash.
Sunday, flowers and a wreath were placed on a dirt pile near the embankment where Groesbeck is believed to have vaulted off of and into the river. Investigators painted marks next to tire tracks and scuff marks on the bridge that spans the river, indicating that at least two tires went over the curb and traveled 30 to 50 feet before hitting the incline of the cement barrier, likely launching the vehicle into the river.
Groesbeck, 25, was driving home to Springville from Salem, where she had been visiting her parents. She was killed about 10:30 p.m. Friday when her car went off the road where Arrowhead Trail connects with Main Street. What caused the car to go off the road was still under investigation Sunday. Because of where the vehicle landed, it was difficult for anyone to see the wreck from the street above.
Fourteen hours later, about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, a fisherman spotted the vehicle and called police.
Dewitt was one of the first officers to arrive. The incident was originally reported as a possible abandoned vehicle in the river. But as he got closer, he said he could see the mother inside. Three more officers arrived almost simultaneously at the river.
And that's when they heard a voice.
"We were down on the car and a distinct voice says, 'Help me, help me,'" Dewitt recalled.
"It wasn't just something that was just in our heads. To me it was plain as day cause I remember hearing a voice," officer Tyler Beddoes said. "I think it was Dewitt who said, 'We're trying. We're trying our best to get in there.'
"How do you explain that? I don't know," he said, adding that the voice didn't sound like a child.
"It was a positive boost for every one of us because I think it pushed us to go harder a little longer. I don't think that any one of us had intended on flipping a car over that day," Beddoes said. "We know there was some other help there, getting us where we needed to be."
When the officers flipped the car onto its side, that's when they realized that a child was still inside.
"I was terrified there was a little baby," Dewitt said. "My initial instinct was that she was dead. When we were able to cut her out, pass her out, the first thing I saw was her eyes fluttering. So it was kind of a positive sign of life for me, at least. But knew she wasn't out of harm's way, either."
After Dewitt discovered the child, firefighters Paul Taultomadakis and Lee Mecham jumped on top of the vehicle.
"Got the door open, and Lee jumped up with me and held the door while I kind of got down inside, grabbed the baby girl, lifted her out of the water and unhooked the car seat," Taultomadakis said. "Didn't really think about anything except trying to get her out. Once I got ahold of her, I could tell that she still had some life."
After Taultomadakis pulled Lily out, the police officers and firefighters started passing her up the hill until she got into Warner's arms.
"I ended up with the child in my arms and I just ran up the hill and into the ambulance and we drove off, started CPR and anything we could do to just save her," he said.
Lily was improving Sunday, according to Jill Sanderson, Groesbeck's sister.
"She is doing remarkably well considering the circumstance. The doctors have been hopeful so far," Sanderson said. "We would like to express our appreciation to the Spanish Fork rescue team for saving the baby's life."
But as Sanderson and her family were thankful that Lily's life was saved, they were also mourning Sunday the loss of her mother.
"Her baby was the love of her life. She was an amazing mother," her sister said. "She was very compassionate and a very loving person and always willing to bend over backwards for her loved ones."
Several of the firefighters who jumped in the river, which was 10 feet deep in places, were treated at a hospital Saturday for hypothermia.
"The water temperature is so cold, but we don't really feel that until a long time after as far as how cold you actually were," Beddoes said.
All of the rescuers involved said both instinct and adrenaline kicked in once they realized there was a toddler still alive inside the vehicle.
"It definitely picks up your adrenaline a little bit. Once you find out that somebody had been in there for that long and they've got a chance from your efforts, it's very rewarding. It makes everything worthwhile," Mecham added.
All involved said the rescue operation went as well as anyone could have hoped for.
"We couldn't have asked for anything to have gone better. All the officers did exactly what they needed to do. All of our guys did exactly what they needed to do. It was seamless and everybody knew where they needed to be. It went very well, very fast," Mecham said.
Groesbeck was the youngest of five children, including three brothers. She lived in Utah County all of her life, going to school at Provo High and was currently enrolled at Provo College. Being in the outdoors and spending time with her family were two things that she loved doing, Sanderson said.
A gofundme account has been set up to pay for funeral expenses and medical care for Lilly at www.gofundme.com/o8bwp0.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam
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