During his commute from Heber City to Spanish Fork Thursday morning, 1st Class Sgt. Bryan Smethurst became an unwitting poster boy for the Army National Guard.
Smethurst, a recruiter for the Guard, extols the virtues of military service almost every day. But his actions reverberated much louder than his words when he saved the lives of a woman and a 3-year-old girl after the car in which they were traveling slid on U.S. 189 and rolled over into the chilly Provo River.At about 7 a.m. while driving down Provo Canyon, Smethurst noticed a Ford Tempo partially submerged and upside-down in the river near the Sundance exit.
"There were no people around, but I decided to stop and check it out," he said.
`Then I saw some debris, a bag of clothes and some Tupperware, floating down the river. All the sudden I saw a woman who started yelling, saying her mom and her baby were trapped in the car. I just tried to breathe."
The woman, 22-year-old Jamie Webb, was the driver of the car. Her 3-year-old daughter, Kyleah, and her mother, Sheila Chatwin, 44, were trapped in the wreckage. All are residents of Heber.
Webb said she hit a patch of ice and lost control of her car, which slid down an embankment and rolled into the water.
Smethurst, 36, rushed into the waist-deep ice-cold water and was able to jar open the car door and free Chatwin. By this time, Smethurst said, other motorists stopped to offer assistance. He pressed on, searching for the small child and found the little girl strapped in a car seat.
"I could hear her crying," he said.
The toddler was upside down, and the water level was at the child's eyebrows.
Though he lost feeling in his hands because of the water's frigid temperatures, he managed to remove the child from the car and carried her to safety. The girl, her mother and her grandmother were taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where they were treated for hypothermia, cuts and bruises and released Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Smethurst reported to work at the Spanish Fork Armory a little late, a little wet and a little cold. But, as is his style, he didn't talk up his lifesaving efforts.
"He's a very reluctant hero," said Utah National Guard public affairs spokesperson Elaine Southworth. "I found out from someone else about it."
Smethurst credited his actions to the training he has received in the National Guard as well as the eight years he spent as a volunteer ambulance driver in St. George.
On Thursday night, Smethurst was reunited with the grateful women and young girl under calmer circumstances. His heroics received ample coverage from the media. It was probably his best pitch yet to prospective candidates who may be thinking about enlisting in the National Guard.
But Smethurst said he was only doing what he hoped someone in a similar situation would do if it were his family involved in an accident.