California Ravine Rescue: Emergency Workers Speak Out

A mother and her children were saved from a mangled car dangling from a bridge.

ByABC News
January 16, 2012, 3:11 AM

Jan. 16, 2012— -- Emergency workers and Navy Seebees who managed to save a mother of two and her children as her wrecked car dangled from a bridge said they set aside their emotions to engineer the harrowing rescue.

Kelli Lynne Groves, her 10-month-old baby Milo and 10-year-old daughter Sage's nightmare began while they were driving on California's Highway 101 near Santa Barbara and were rear-ended by a big-rig truck.

Groves' BMW was left hanging practically sideways Thursday on the side of the bridge as the truck plummeted 100 feet into a ravine and burst into flames, killing the driver, Charles Allison Jr., instantly.

"The BMW was then forced into the center concrete wall where the three parties in the BMW became trapped in the vehicle," Officer Danny Maher of the California Highway Patrol told

After the accident, Groves and her children had a stroke of luck when U.S. Navy Seabees, who happened to be driving on the highway with the kind of equipment needed to save them from the deadly plummet, stopped to aid the family. The crew quickly joined forces with emergency workers in the rescue.

"Our first priority was life safety, and that for firefighters, and for the occupants on the car," Ray Navarro, fire chief at the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said on "Good Morning America" today.

"This was a complex situation. We had a vehicle with occupants trapped on the bridge and hazmats under the bridge. The teamwork and courage and abilities and skills all came together. And we focused on rescuing those trapped inside."

California Highway Patrol Officer Danny Maher said, "They all got out and wanted to know if they could help maybe with traffic or something else. They had a large forklift with them. … It was actually just good luck on our part."

Greg Taylor from Station 31 of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department was also on the scene at the accident.

"You're so focused on what you're doing that you don't really think about the emotional part of it until afterwards," Taylor told ABC News affiliate KEYT.

Inside the car, which was damaged beyond recognition, 36-year-old, first-grade teacher Groves and her two daughters struggled to free themselves as rescue workers tirelessly fought to rescue them.

"[Groves] was saying, 'Get me and my children out of here,' and she said that they wanted to get a net below her. I told her I needed her to remain calm and patient. She was a very calm woman, very cooporative," Greg Nuckols of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department told "GMA."

The forklift was able to keep the dangling car steady until the rescue workers were finally able to free the family.

After the rescue, they were airlifted to Santa Barbara's Cottage Hospital where the baby girl, who had been in a car seat, was treated for minor injuries.

"Kelly said 'thank you,' she was quite happy to be free," Nuckols said. "She was concerned about her baby and her 10-year-old. She wanted us to contact her husband."

Saturday morning the final pieces of the big rig from Thursday's fatal accident were removed, KEYT-TV reported, while an environmental company has been contracted to clean up the reported 50 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled from Allison's truck.