(Edgerton, Wyo.) – What could have been an evening of terror and death turned into an opportunity for heroism as the Riverton High School Swim team came to a father’s and son’s aid after head-on collision on Saturday.
“I was really proud of those boys,” head swim coach Jay Dayton said in a Monday interview. Dayton had a front-row seat to the entire incident and praised everyone on the Riverton bus for their actions.
Sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, the bus was returning from a meet. According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, a head-on collision had occurred ahead of the bus about 7 miles northeast of Edgerton on Highway 387, leaving a passenger car and semi in the roadway. Dayton said as the bus approached all he could see from his front row seat was a couple gray blobs.
“He was amazing,” Dayton said of bus driver Terry Grant. “The driver did a heck of a job of threading the needle” between the car and the semi. Ultimately, the bus ended up barely clipping the wrecked car, and Grant pulled the bus over to the side of the road.
At that point Dayton said himself, Grant and assistant coach Shawn Rivera began to exit the bus to assist the people in the car. Dayton said Grant took charge and ordered Dayton to stay at the bus with the team.
Rivera said as he approached the car he could hear a man and a child screaming out for help. He was able to get the driver’s side door open and got permission from the man to begin cutting off his seat belt. Out of the corner of his eye he said he saw a black car slide into the ditch. “It looked like special effects from a movie,” Dayton said, describing the snow flying from the collision. Shortly after, a semi came into view, and Rivera knew he couldn’t stick around. Grant had moved to help direct traffic.
“I said ‘I’m sorry; hold on,” Rivera said. He was heading back toward the bus when the semi struck the car, sending the wrecked vehicle flying past him by about 10 feet on one side and the semi passing on the other.
Rivera said he and Grant returned to the car and got the adult out. Hearing the boy still screaming, Rivera said Grant took the man on to the bus and he went back. “You can’t get hit again right now,” Rivera said he told the boy as he removed him from the car. Dayton had removed a wheelchair from the bus and got it to the car. The boy was moved to the bus using the wheelchair and the bus’s lift to get him inside. During all this, the swimmers stayed on the bus.
He expected the swimmers to be in shock and awe when he arrived with the boy, but “they were amazing.” Rivera said the students jumped into action, splinting and elevating wounds, giving up headphone cables for tourniquets. Dayton said the students who are lifeguards helped with bandaging and treated both for shock symptoms. Other swimmers reportedly talked to the wounded, helping to keep them conscious. “I’m actually getting chills talking about it right now,” Rivera said in his interview. Dayton said one of the swimmers’ moms is a nurse, and she helped direct some treatment over the phone.
Once EMTs arrived 15-30 minutes later, the swimmers reportedly kept helping. They aided EMTs and firefighters with getting the two onto stretchers and into the ambulances. “It was moving,” Rivera said.
He said he and the students didn’t do anything heroic, just did what needed to be done. “I’m definitely no Batman,” he said.
The Fremont County School District 25 cannot release the names of the students involved due to requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. County10.com plans to meet with some of the swimmers on Tuesday afternoon.
District Superintendent Terry Snyder called the situation a “blessing.” “We’re so pleased … that we were able to help them out,” he said. “Their courage and willingness to help is extraordinary.”
One of the students reportedly has been able to keep in touch with the family. Last they heard both the father and son had multiple surgeries, but both were expected to be OK.