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Windows shot out of submerged van in Utah to rescue children

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pulling his handgun, former police officer Chris Willden was quick to action when he saw an upside down car submerged in an icy river Logan Canyon in Utah. Shooting out the windows, he reached inside to free three trapped children.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "I was trying to grab arms, but I couldn't feel anything," Willden said. "I'm thinking ... what are we going to do?'"

Eight other passers-by had joined the rescue effort that fateful Saturday afternoon down the embankment to help. According to Highway Patrol Lieutenant Steve Winward, after Willden shot out a window, he cut a seatbelt to free one child.

Rescuers then helped turn the Honda Accord upright in the Logan River, and lifted it enough to free all three trapped children. The driver of the Honda Accord had reportedly lost control of the car as he tried to brake while heading northbound in slippery conditions.

According to local newspaper accounts, the driver of the vehicle was identified as Roger Andersen, 46, of Logan. The trapped occupants were identified as his children Mia, 9, and Baylor, 4. The other occupant, 9-year-old Kenya Wildman, is a family friend. The group was n it sway to a day of skiing at Beaver Mountain.

"(The driver) was panicked, doing everything he could to get in through the doors, but they wouldn't budge," said Willden, who had jumped into the water with his father.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'You're going to see some dead kids, get ready.' I've got three of my own and it was going to be (an awful) start to the New Year," Willden added.

Willden tried unsuccessfully to open windows and doors and then used his firearm just as he had done in training for his current job as a bodyguard and Department of Defense contractor.

One of the girls had found an air pocket and was breathing fine, but was trapped in her seat belt. Willden cut it with a pocket knife and pulled her from the rear passenger window.

The other two children were at first reported lifeless, the boy upside down in his car seat and the second girl floating in the front passenger compartment. Both were pulled from the vehicle.

The boy was revived when another passer-by performed CPR.

"Emotions started taking over when he started to breathe. Everybody started to cheer. Lots of tears and clapping," a witness said.

Willden, 35, of Ogden, was wrapping up his bleeding forearms cut by the broken window when he heard cheers.

Both the boy and his sister were flown by air ambulance to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City and survived.

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