Joe Donnell was kayaking in the Smith and Morehouse reservoir in Summit County in the afternoon when he heard cries for help nearby, KSL reported.
According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), a family was loading kayaks into the truck when at some point, the vehicle started rolling into the water on a boat ramp. There were three children inside the truck.
A nine-year-old boy was able to get out, and an older family member was able to save a two-year-old girl. Unfortunately, another nine-year-old boy remained trapped inside the truck.
Donnell paddled toward the commotion, and once he realized the gravity of the situation, he left his life jacket inside his kayak and dove into the water.
“I didn’t want to leave him. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew there was a body down there waiting for a pickup truck to come drag the truck out so it could get the body out,” the retired park ranger told KSL. “I just knew I couldn’t do that.”
After diving in multiple times, Donnell still could not find the young boy trapped inside, he recalled.
Donnell’s wife, Kathy, who was nearby, encouraged her husband that he could find the boy.
“He said, ‘I can’t find him.’ And I said, ‘Yes you can. Yes you can,’” Kathy Donnell said.
On approximately the seventh attempt, he found the child and pulled him to the surface.
The boy — whose name is Paxton — was airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and was placed in the ICU on life support, according to KTSU.
On Monday night, Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez tweeted that the nine-year-old was “in extremely critical condition.”
Despite the initial grim outlook, Paxton is showing signs that he is on the road to recovery, according to his aunt, Kelly Carpenter, KTSU reported on Wednesday.
“The doctors say that he is doing well and is able to respond to some of their tasks,” Carpenter said. “They did not think that he would survive.”
“Every time I spoke to him, he responded to me, whether that be squeezing my hand, shaking his head ‘yes,’” she added.
Carpenter even indicated that the family is hoping if Paxton “feels up to it,” he will get a chance to meet Donnell one day.
Read the full story here.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.