Originally posted at 5:03 p.m.
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — As the hours following Thursday’s pond disaster turned to days, the waiting continued inside three Minneapolis hospitals. That’s where the children pulled from a submerged car are fighting to survive.
After hours of intensive medical care there was a sign of hope on Friday afternoon. According to family spokesman, Rick Petry, two of the children, 1-year-old Aliyana Rennie and 5-year-old Amani Coleman-Guerrido, are showing signs of improvement.
“I’m pleased to report that two of the children, although still in critical condition, are making slight improvement, they are responsive at this time,” Petry said.
He added that a third child, 6-year-old Zarihana Rennie, remains unresponsive and in critical condition.
Those responsible for Thursday morning’s heroic and icy rescue spoke Friday of what it was like in the first frantic moments.
Web Extra: 911 Pond Crash Transcript
St. Louis Park police officer Aaron Trant was the first to arrive on the scene after the 911 call for help. Trant recalls the children’s mother, 23-year-old Marion Guerrido, and a Good Samaritan standing on the car’s roof about 50 feet off shore. She was screaming for help in the darkness.
“When she said there are children in the car…the emotions…I can’t even imagine what it looked like,” he said.
As more first responders poured onto the scene, firefighters put on water rescue suits. But the suits are meant to provide insulated buoyancy, which prevented rescuers from diving down into the car.
So St. Louis Park firefighter Tim Smith pushed himself down feet first. He explained how his only option was to feel around through the driver’s side window and find the children. As he did he was able to grab them between his legs and pull them up to his arms.
“I swept the inside of the car with my feet and felt a child and pulled it back towards my hands,” Smith said.
The water was so murky, he said, he couldn’t see the top of the car just feet below him. And the near-freezing water affected all those searching.
Smith got four of the kids out of the car before getting back on shore.
“About that time is when the State Patrol informed us that there was a fifth child in the car,” he said.
“There was no good way for us to do this other than the way we did,” he added.
Investigators are still trying to determine how Guerrido missed the westbound Highway 7 ramp onto north Highway 100.
The State Patrol is looking at everything from excessive speed, distracted driving or a possible mechanical problem with the Pontiac Grand Am.
“We recognize the need to answer questions. But we need to be accurate when we provide them,” said State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske.
But the emotions of everyone who came to the rescue are still very raw, very real – something apparent as the first responders told their roles in the harrowing rescue.
“At not one time did I feel we weren’t going to get those kids out,” Trant said.