Hero kayaker saves children trapped inside sinking truck

Aug 23, 2022, 9:45 PM | Updated: 10:46 pm

SUMMIT COUNTY, UtahA 9-year-old boy is fighting for his life Tuesday night after nearly drowning at the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir in Summit County.

A family from Davis County had parked their truck on the boat ramp when it slid into the water.

KSL’s Shelby Lofton talked with a hero kayaker who used his experience as a park ranger to rescue the children inside.

“My husband went out paddling and I stayed onshore with my daughter,” said Kathy Donnell.

A beautiful afternoon on the water turned into a dramatic rescue Monday afternoon.

“They were saying Dios, which in Spanish is God,” said Joe Donnell.

Joe and his family heard cries for help. They saw a truck on the boat ramp steadily heading into the water.

“I guess the first boy got out and swam over to my wife,” Joe said.

“I noticed the grandpa was heading in with the baby girl, 2 to 3 years old, and he was starting to panic and he said, ‘I can’t do this’ and threw her at me and I grabbed her,” Kathy said.

One child was still inside.

“I didn’t want to leave him. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew there was a body down there waiting for a pickup truck to come drag the truck out so it could get the body out,” Joe said. “I just knew I couldn’t do that.”

Joe said he left his life jacket and dove into the water.

“I think I went down a total of seven times, maybe.”

Each time he resurfaced, the panic grew.

“I kept going in to just encourage Joe when he’d come up,” Kathy said. “He said, ‘I can’t find him.’ And I said, ‘Yes you can. Yes you can.'”

“I finally found him,” Joe said. “I just remember reaching up and feeling some clothing and I grabbed him.”

Child hospitalized, another two rescued after truck submerges in Summit County reservoir

Joe said he swam about 20 yards back to shore.

His daughter, Timber, had called 9-1-1.

“I was holding his head, trying to keep his airway open,” Kathy said. “We started CPR. We had 9-1-1 on the phone.”

Kathy said the boy had a pulse when he was taken to the hospital.

“It was a team effort, everyone pitching in doing everything they could to give this little boy another chance at life,” said Sgt. Andrew Wright with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office told KSL the 9-year-old is currently on life support at University Hospital.

The other two children are doing OK.

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