Mark Divittorio said, “It was fortuitous that they didn’t actually land on me. I was kayaking right there moments before they plunged off the cliff.”
When Mark Divittorio went to kayak the American River in Northern California Thursday, he didn’t expect to end they trip being hailed a hero. But after helping to rescue a family of 5 whose SUV crashed into the river, that’s exactly what happened. According to KCRA-TV,
The [Lemler] family was driving along Highway 50 near the Sierra Nevada community of Kyburz Thursday afternoon when their SUV veered off the road, hit a concrete mile marker, a large tree, a boulder and then went into the American River.
According to officials, “Divittorio was able to get three children — a 4-year-old girl and two 15-year-twin girls — out of the SUV and get them to shore.” After getting the children to safety, KCRA reports Divittorio went back to the SUV, which was half-submerged, and found the driver trapped and the man’s wife holding his head above water. According to the Associated Press, Mike Pott, the division chief of the El Dorado County Fire Protection District explained that a fire crew was already in the area for another call, “and was able to get to the scene within three minutes,” instead of the 15 it would normally have taken.
Firefighters were able to stabilize the driver and get him and his wife out of the vehicle, which was on its side and half-submerged in the river, Pott said. “All the circumstances came together. Several things came together to help save this family.”
The two adults and the two teens were wearing seatbelts, while the child was strapped into a car seat, Pott said.
The driver, Christian Lemler, 50, of Livermore, suffered moderate to major injuries, said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Poore. With the cause of the crash still under investigation, it had not been determined 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.
Divittorio told KCRA, “It was fortuitous that they didn’t actually land on me. I was kayaking right there moments before they plunged off the cliff.”
Photo: AP/El Dorado County Fire Department