Clockwise from top left: Senior Adrian Cook, Senior Erik Horyza, Junior Romblo Cortez, Freshman Jody Stransky and Junior Justyn Root. Joshua Scheer photo.
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Three days after a frightening snow-caused wreck in which students, staff and coaches worked to save the lives of two others, five Riverton High School swimmers recounted the events with local media.
Senior Adrian Cook, Senior Erik Horyza, Junior Romblo Cortez, Freshman Jody Stransky and Junior Justyn Root were all on the bus early Saturday evening when a series of events threw swim team into the midst of an evening they likely will never forget. On the way home from a meet in Gillette, two vehicles collided in the middle of Highway 387 ahed of the team’s bus; the bus only nicked the wreckage thanks to the smart driving of Terry Grant. Swim coaches Jay Dayton, Shawn Rivera and driver Grant pulled a father and his teen son from the wreckage as other vehicles were driving past, another semi striking the car before the pair could be rescued. Once the victims were taken to the bus, the coaches claim the students took matters into their own hands.
The boys declined to call themselves heroes, but expressed extreme gratitude for Grant’s driving and their coaches’s actions. “They’re heroes,” Horyza said. Cook said, and the rest agreed, that the actions of their leaders made them want to step up. Had their coaches not saved the two from the wreckage, the boys likely wouldn’t have done anything either, they said.
Root said when the wreck occurred most of the team was sleeping, so it definitely came as a startling surprise.
The father was brought to the bus first, and the swimmers jumped in, some of them using their lifeguard training to inform their decisions. “We first did a pain assessment,” Horyza said, noting they asked the man where he was feeling pain while they looked him over. Meanwhile others were grabbing medical kits. They could immediately identify injuries to the man’s leg and hands, elevated wounds and did what they could to keep him alert.
“We knew we had to keep him alive,” Horyza said. “That was our goal.” Root said he never expected to be using his lifeguard training in a situation like that.
Horyza and Cortez reportedly stayed with the man while Root and Cook helped the teen when he was brought to the bus. The boy was about their own age. Dayton said Cook did a great job of getting the boy to calm and get over shock symptoms. Root’s mother is a nurse, and he called her for guidance. Working on someone about their age made them realize that it could have easily been them in the boy’s shoes. Cook said it was stressful.
“Organized chaos” is how the team described the roughly 15-20 minutes that they worked with the pair before ambulances arrived. Horyza said it was incredible how well they all worked around each other. “We didn’t know we could do that,” he said.
While they had been a close team before the events of Feb. 8, they now describe each other as brothers. “Talk about some team bonding,” Root said.
The team gets to travel twice more to Gillette in the coming month, for regionals and then state competitions. They’re more worried about the meets than the drive.