Passers-by save 3 kids from icy river

SALT LAKE CITY — Three Utah children trapped in an upturned car after it skidded into a river have been released from a Salt Lake City hospital, two days after the accident that also brought heroics from several passers-by.

The children went home with their father early Monday after recovering from hypothermia, said Primary Children's Medical Center spokeswoman Bonnie Midget. The family is reluctant to speak about the ordeal and wasn't answering phone calls Monday, she said.

Midget called it an amazing story of rescue with at least nine people helping to right the car in the river.

The father, Roger Andersen, lost control of the car Saturday afternoon on a slippery, narrow stretch of road in Logan Canyon.

One of the first people on the scene was former police officer Chris Willden, who didn't hesitate when he realized children were trapped in the upside down Honda Accord. He pulled his handgun, pushed it up against the submerged windows, shot out the glass and reached inside.

"I was trying to grab arms, but I couldn't feel anything," Willden said. "I'm thinking ... `What are we going to do?"'

He turned to see up to eight other people had scrambled down the 10-foot embankment to help after coming upon the accident along U.S. 89.

Andersen, 46, of Logan, was able to free himself, but his 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were trapped along with a second 9-year-old girl.

"(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 own 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 said he tried unsuccessfully to open windows and doors. He 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. She and Andersen escaped injury.

The other two children were lifeless, the boy upside down in his car seat and the second girl floating in the front passenger compartment, Willden said.

Buzzy Mullahkel, of North Logan, told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City that the boy wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse but 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," said Mullahkel, a father of a 4-year-old.

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

"That was awesome," he said. "I knew that's where the little boy was."