A kayaker rescued a family of five after their SUV crashed and rolled into a Northern California river on Thursday.
While traversing through the Sierra Nevada community of Kyburz along Highway 50 during the afternoon in an SUV, a family was unexpectedly in an accident. For unknown reasons, the driver lost control of the vehicle. It veered off the road, hit a concrete mile marker, a large tree, and a boulder and then rolled into the American River in Sacramento, various reporters shared. It landed on its side and was half-submerged in the river.
Meanwhile, kayaker Mark Divittorio of Placerville was on the river at about the same time the SUV fell in and noticed the accident. He rushed to the scene of the accident and was able to extricate three children and get them safely to shore: a 4-year-old girl and two 15-year-twin girls.
“It was fortuitous that they didn’t actually land on me,” Divittorio told reporters. “I was kayaking right there moments before they plunged off the cliff.”
Divittorio returned to the SUV where he found the driver with his head partly underwater and the man’s wife helping to hold his head up
Within three minutes, a fire crew that happened to be in the area for another call was able to get to the scene.
Mike Pott, division chief of the El Dorado County Fire Protection District, told reporters that firefighters were able to stabilize the driver and get him and his wife out of the vehicle.
Christian Lemler, 50, of Livermore, was behind the wheel of vehicle at the time of the collision. He suffered moderate to major injuries, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Poore told reporters.
Detectives are still working to investigate the accident. So far it is not clear how fast the SUV was going when it crashed into the river. It was raining at the time, but it was not known if the weather contributed to the crash.
Per authorities, all of the other family members suffered only bumps and bruises.
“All the circumstances came together,” Pott said. “Several things came together to help save this family.”
Everyone in the vehicle were wearing proper seatbelts and the child was strapped into a car seat, Pott said.
“If they didn’t have their seatbelts on I’m sure they would have all been ejected,” he said.
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