9-year-old girl welcomed home after near-fatal DUI crash

Apr 22, 2022, 10:42 AM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 1:45 pm

HERRIMAN, Utah — Friends and family lined the streets in Herriman on Thursday to celebrate 9-year-old Lily Virga’s recovery after she spent almost two months in the hospital following what police called a DUI-related crash.

Lily’s father crashed his car while apparently driving drunk on the way to drop her off at school. Lily was in the passenger seat and was critically injured.

On Thursday, friends and loved ones wore Lily’s favorite color — purple — and lined the street outside her Herriman home.

“It’s really heartwarming to feel all the support and love from the community,” her stepfather Shaun Lindberg said. “It’s been a lot of little milestones. Every single one of them is overwhelmingly meaningful.”

The third grader at Draper Elementary School suffered a traumatic brain injury on the morning of March 2. Investigators said her father, Jacob Virga, crashed his car into a tree on 13320 South Fort Street after drinking alcohol and taking a Xanax. He later had a blood-alcohol level of 0.179.

Mathias Maillet was driving his children to daycare when he saw the crash. While many were taking pictures and videos at a distance, Maillet jumped out of his car to help.

“The father was sitting on the curb. I yelled at him to ask if anyone else was still inside the crushed car. He said yes and told me her name. Lily’s arm was flailing. She was trapped in the crunched car. I couldn’t even see her legs. Suddenly she went limp and stopped breathing. I said, ‘No — you are not going to go!’ I slapped her cheek. I did it again. I pleaded with her to take a breath. And she did.”

Maillet stayed with Lily until medics arrived, getting her a blanket, talking to her and searching for a fire extinguisher to spray the leaking vehicle.

“She is only 9 years old. She was trapped. She stopped breathing twice. But she managed to come back,” Maillet said. “Saying this is amazing or fantastic just isn’t enough. This is unreal.”

Lily’s mother Karlene Lindberg and stepfather Shaun Lindberg held her hand Thursday as she greeted the crowd.

“She truly is a miracle and inspiration,” Karlene Lindberg said. “God played a part in this.”

Lily suffered a brain bleed, fractured wrist, short-term memory loss and damaged lungs in the crash. She had to relearn all her motor skills and will need constant supervision as she heals.

“Lily starts school on Monday. We’ll start with a few hours a day, then work our way up,” Lindberg said.

Firefighters, teachers and even Miss Herriman, Paige Welsh, came to welcome Lily home.

When asked how the big welcome made her feel, Lily confidently answered “happy,” with a giant smile on her face.

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9-year-old girl welcomed home after near-fatal DUI crash