In retrospect, Kassidy Johnson of Lehi is a lucky girl. The 17-year-old was in a car/train wreck five months ago.
If she hadn't been just the right size to fit between the right and left back tires of the car that flipped over on top of her the night of March 1, she'd have been more seriously injured.If Orem firefighter Marc Sanderson hadn't wondered about a lone hiking boot in the dirt at the scene of the crash, she might not have been found for some time and could have died beneath her car.
If Life Flight attendants had decided to take Johnson to a Salt Lake hospital rather than to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center - three minutes away - she may not have received intensive medical help in time.
As it turned out, everything worked well. Emergency teams correctly made vital decisions and as a result, Johnson is alive, vibrant and learning to walk again.
She's rebounding from the tragic accident that proved fatal for her friend, Dan Price - an accident that left her comatose in intensive care for more than a month and in a walker today.
Price was killed in the accident that pitted Johnson's small car against a freight train at a railroad crossing near the Lindon Boat Harbor.
Johnson remembers stopping at the crossing and then "flying through the air" after the train struck the front of her car, sending it over the road and into a control box on the south side.
She said that contrary to media reports of the accident, she and Price were never racing the train. She said her vehicle was clipped by a snowplow attached to the train's front engine as it passed them.
Unconscious after the impact that sent her into the air and back to the ground, Johnson lay pinned beneath the car's rear axle with multiple fractures and severe internal injuries.
She was also hidden from view - so much so that rescue personnel originally looked under the car and said they saw no one.
But Sanderson had a funny feeling. He'd seen a purse and the single boot in the dirt. Rescue workers had assumed Price had been the only one in the car. When the firefighter looked beneath the car, he heard rattled breathing and found Johnson.
Her body was perfectly wedged underneath the car between the two back tires.
"Kassidy survived what we in the fire service would consider an unsurvivable accident considering the injuries she sustained and her location under the vehicle," said paramedic Joe Ballard.
"In a profession where we see too many tragedies, we've all witnessed a miracle."
Ballard, together with Life Flight crew members Tammy Anstee, Ken Done and pilot Bill Butts and members of the Orem firefighters' and paramedic squad, presented Johnson with roses, a stuffed Dalmatian dog and an angel on a silver necklace Wednesday.
"You are our angel," Ballard said. "You gave us time to find you and the time to transport you."
Orem Fire Capt. Lyle Thompson said Johnson's fighting spirit and strong will to live exemplify the reasons emergency workers train, serve and invest years into being ready to make a difference.