The Archote family won't be home for Christmas, but "Santa" has tracked them down in Payson.
The Archotes were headed home to their small, self-sufficient farm in Arkansas after a job ended in Nevada. After camping in their '71 van off the road in Spanish Fork Canyon, Brad, 35, was just waking up at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, looking for some clothes to cover his long johns. His wife, Sarah, 30, and their three children were still asleep on the van floor.Just up the road, a tractor-trailer driver temporarily lost control of his vehicle. He had only an instant to choose between hitting a full school bus and the van parked at the side of the road. He chose the Archotes' van.
"His trailer ripped the side off the van," Sarah said. "He hit the side where Cetan and I were sleeping."
Sarah was unhurt, but Cetan, 2, "had her head all busted up," her mother said. A passer-by drove the pair toward Mountain View Hospital, turning them over to an emergency medical crew along the way. Brad stayed with Jordan Rose, 4, andSeth, 7, at the van.
Cetan needed about 120 stitches to close a 3-inch laceration on her forehead, and Brad must wear a neck brace for a while, but no one else was hurt.
"People who have looked at the van say it is a miracle we weren't all killed," Brad said.
Stranded in a strange town, with their van destroyed, their cash running out and many of their modest belonging destroyed, the Archotes didn't expect to have a very merry Christmas.
Until the staff of Mountain View Hospital decided to play Santa.
"There was no organized effort, but staff members just started donating things," said Pam White, hospital spokeswoman.
"Some brought clothes, blankets and toys, some gave cash. Some could give pocket change and a few gave $20s."
On Friday, the staff presented the Archotes with nearly $200 and a few dozen wrapped presents. Seth's favorite gift was some "crazy balls"; Jordan Rose loved her new doll; and Cetan liked all her toys and clothes, but preferred to keepplaying with empty milk cartons she has saved from her meals.
The Archotes will stay in a motel room paid for by state Social Services until at least Monday, then will head home as soon as they can find transportation.
"We are hoping the truck driver's insurance company will give us enough money for a real cheap van, or for a rental car," Brad said. They need something big enough to carry their remaining belongings, "which look like a frozen mass ofmess in the van," he said.
The Archotes say their part of Arkansas, near Leslie, is a very poor area. Their family produces wooden spoons and bowls to earn money, and Brad looks for odd jobs.
"People all try to hustle what work they can. I never say I can't do anything," he said.
The Archotes have been invited to eat a special Christmas dinner at the hospital cafeteria.
"We appreciate all the effort people have gone to," Brad said. "The doctors are real good folks, and everyone has been great. Payson's a pretty nice little town."