By the time rescuers got to Lily Groesbeck, the 18-month-old toddler who spent 14 hours upside-down in a vehicle that had plunged off an overpass and into a Utah river, she was close to death.
A week after her dramatic rescue, newly-released footage shows the desperate effort to free the child from the smashed wreckage, where she remained strapped to her car seat as it danged several inches above ice-cold water and certain death.
— KSL (@KSLcom) March 13, 2015
The video begins with an officer rushing down a steep embankment before entering the water and joining other rescuers attempting to get inside the deadly vehicle. After an attempt to open a heavily dented car door fails, rescuers decide their best option is to flip the vehicle on its side.
The men can be heard grunting and groaning as they struggle to lift the smashed, four-door vehicle as freezing water swirls around them.
“Let’s go, guys!” a rescuer can be heard saying as the group begins lifting. “C’mon!”
The water was so cold that seven emergency responders were treated for hypothermia after they entered the water to perform the rescue, according to Fox affiliate KSTU.
Moments later, a small child is pulled from the wreckage and being passed from one man to the next until the toddler ends up in the back of an ambulance, where she receives CPR.
“She’s definitely hypothermic” an officer can be heard saying as he carries her toward the ambulance.
The toddler’s mother, 25-year-old Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, was killed in the accident, which took place about 10:30 p.m. Friday. Groesbeck had taken her daughter to visit her parents in Salem and were driving to their home in nearby Springville, a suburb of Provo.
Groesbeck, a lifelong Utah resident and the youngest of five children, had dreams of becoming a medical assistant because she enjoyed helping others, according to NBC affiliate KSL-TV. Family members told the station she enjoyed being outdoors and spending time with loved ones, but it was her daughter that she was most passionate about.
“She was very compassionate and a very loving person and always willing to bend over backwards for her loved ones,” Sanderson told the station. “Her baby was the love of her life. She was an amazing mother.”
— KSL (@KSLcom) March 9, 2015
In a mysterious twist, four of the rescuers involved told the Deseret News the next day that they recalled hearing a voice calling for help as they neared the car. However, when they flipped the vehicle, which had been resting on its hood, they discovered that nobody inside was capable of speaking.
“We were down on the car and a distinct voice says, ‘Help me, help me,’ ” officer Bryan 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.”
After prying open a door, rescuers unhooked Lily from her car seat and noticed her eyes were still fluttering. They began passing her up the hill to safety.
“Didn’t really think about anything except trying to get her out,” firefighter Paul Taultomadakis told the News. “Once I got ahold of her, I could tell that she still had some life.”
— Sandra Yi (@KSL_SandraYi) March 11, 2015
On Friday, Lily’s family updated her GoFundMe page to say that the toddler has been released from the hospital and is back home with family. The page included the following message:
“We are overwhelmed by the love and kindness that has been shown from all over the world. We are just now beginning to grieve for Jenny and that will be a long and difficult journey for everyone who knew her. Thank you for all of your kind and uplifting words. It is appreciated more than you could ever know.”
The fundraising effort, which was seeking $50,000, has raised more than $74,000 in five days.