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January 4, 2012

Family recalls icy river rescue in Utah

Deseret Morning News 

LOGAN, Utah — The sound of rushing water was all Roger Andersen could hear after his car plunged into the Logan River on Saturday. It overwhelmed even the cries of his daughter, son, and young family friend who were in the car with him. "Within one second the entire cabin of the vehicle was full of water," Andersen said.

"I didn't hear any screams of the kids. As (Mia) cried for help, the water would rush into her lungs." Andersen and daughter Mia, 9, son Baylor, 4, and family friend Kenya Wildman, 9, were en route to Beaver Mountain for a half day of skiing the bunny slopes around 12:30 p.m.

It's a trip through Logan Canyon Andersen has made hundreds of times, so he knows where the treacherous turns are. He was coming around one such curve on his snowy trip on U.S. 89 when he saw a minivan wrecked on a bridge, partially overhanging the water.

Even though he was already driving a cautious 20 to 25 miles per hour, he thought it best to slow down. "I tapped the brakes once and that one tap was really all it took," he said. "I was gone in a second."

As the sedan slid down an embankment, he hoped the rocks in front of him would bring it to a stop. When those passed under it, he hoped the water's edge might. Instead, it overturned upon impact, trapping him and the three children inside.

"It was really a very slow kind of drawn out thing in my mind," he said, despite it only taking a few seconds. But as quickly as the accident happened, selfless passers-by were in the water coming to their rescue.

"In no less than 10 seconds, there were half a dozen men standing on the banks of the river," he said. "Within five (more) seconds there were eight men in the river." It took about 90 seconds for them to pull the kids from the car, which the men lifted and flipped.

Mia and Baylor weren't breathing, but people at the scene with CPR training stepped in to help. Within seconds, all three were breathing on their own. All of the children have been released from the hospital and are expected to make a full recovery.

Andersen and his wife Mindy spoke at a press conference Monday at Logan Regional Hospital along with Kenya's parents and a few of the rescuers. The families expressed gratitude for the men who literally stepped in to keep their families intact.

"It's a great story about the human spirit," Dennis Wildman said. Wildman said he's seen dozens of cars end up in the river in the same spot where Andersen went in, but he's hopeful something will be done it and a guardrail or other restraint put in place.

"We just think there needs to be some efforts there," he said. Andersen, who is CPR certified, said he wants to up his training so he'll be able to return to heroic favor if ever he needs to.

"I was amazed at the people and the readiness of people to jump in to help," he said. "While this event was hard and tough it has a great ending and it has also just some really great lessons."

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