When VanRiper arrived to the scene, he quickly realized that he recognized the crumpled sedan: it belonged to his wife, Amber.
Amber had been thrown from the car during the collision. Their son, Jonathan, was still pinned inside. Each had multiple cuts and broken bones.
“It’s my family. My wife was laying there on the ground,” VanRiper told ABC affiliate KTRK. “[By] the look of the car, I don’t know how either one of them lived. There was nothing left of that car.”
He tried to keep calm, but nothing in his training had prepared him for seeing Jonathan — who the family calls “Bear” — pinned inside a mangled car.
“Once I saw my son, that kind of went out the window and I started going into a bit of a panic mode,” VanRiper told KTRK.
Amber and Jonathan were airlifted to a local hospital. Amber underwent nine hours of surgery on Sunday to repair her shattered pelvis, VanRiper said. Jonathan, 7, suffered a broken leg and elbow.
The VanRipers’ ordeal week didn’t end there, however.
The family doesn’t have health insurance, so a friend set up a GoFundMe account to raise $75,000 to cover their medical bills. As of Thursday morning, the page is seeking $125,000.
“I don’t want anything for free. I don’t expect anything,” VanRiper said. “If people are willing to donate, that’s awesome.”
After local and national news picked up the story, donations rolled in. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt visited Jonathan in the hospital before the boy was released on Tuesday.
And then, early Thursday morning, a particularly whopping donation arrived: $15,000 under the name “Taylor Swift.”
It’s unclear if the pop star actually gave the money. She didn’t respond to a request for comment. But the dramatic gesture wouldn’t be out of character for Swift. She spent time in Texas as a child and is a very charitable celebrity.
Whether or not Swift was behind the huge donation, the money made heads turn.
“Uhhh not sure if you saw this Aaron…,” wrote one family member on Facebook under a photo of the $15,000 donation. “Truly amazing.”