Retired park ranger saves boy, 9, after family truck sinks

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 12:17 AM EDT
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SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (KSTU) - A 9-year-old boy is on the road to recovery after nearly drowning in a Utah reservoir, if not for a retired park ranger who rescued him.

Paxton, 9, was at Smith and Morehouse Reservoir near Oakley, Utah, on Monday with family members. As the family was unloading kayaks from their truck, the vehicle, with Paxton and two other kids inside, rolled into the water.

“We’re not sure what happened at that point. The truck started to roll down. They tried to get the kids out of the car,” said Paxton’s aunt, Kelley Carpenter.

Paxton, 9, was underwater for more than 10 minutes when his family's truck rolled into a Utah...
Paxton, 9, was underwater for more than 10 minutes when his family's truck rolled into a Utah reservoir and sank. He was rescued by a retired park ranger who had been kayaking nearby.(Source: Kelley Carpenter, KSTU via CNN)

Two of the kids, a 9-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, got out safely, but Paxton was still in the truck when it sank.

Joe Donnell, a retired park ranger who was kayaking nearby, made several attempts to get to the boy before he was able to rescue him, according to Carpenter.

“We’ve heard that the gentleman had to dive down about seven times before he finally grabbed some clothing and was able to get Paxton out,” Carpenter said.

Paxton was underwater for more than 10 minutes. He was airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he was placed on life support in the intensive care unit. His aunt went to visit him Tuesday.

“The doctors say that he is doing well and is able to respond to some of their tasks. They did not think that he would survive,” Carpenter said. “Every time I spoke to him, he responded to me, whether that be squeezing my hand, shaking his head ‘yes’.”

Before the incident, Carpenter says Paxton had just started fourth grade at New Hope Academy in Lehi. She describes him as funny, energetic and loving.

“He’s very outgoing, loves to be around all his nieces and nephews, loves playing ‘Fortnite’ with us,” she said.

Carpenter is optimistic Paxton will continue making progress in his recovery.

“He’s going to keep fighting, as long as all of us,” she said.

The family is hoping that when Paxton feels up to it, he can be reunited with the retired park ranger who saved his life.