Feb 12, 2014 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterFive members of the Riverton High School boys swim team, and their two coaches, recounted harrowing moments surrounding a Saturday afternoon multi-vehicle accident that included their school bus near Midwest.
In an interview before swim practice Tuesday afternoon at the Riverton Aquatic Center,
Wolverine swimmers Justyn Root, Erik Horyza, Jody Stransky, Adrian Cook and Romelo Cortez described how their bus came upon the accident scene.
The teens said there were times when they were startled, unsure of what was happening, and uncertain as to the fate of the occupants of a Chevrolet Malibu car that had been involved in a head-on crash with a semi tractor trailer, then struck by their school bus, and smashed again by a second truck during whiteout conditions on icy Wyoming Highway 387 between Wright and Midwest.
After the car was struck the third time, the swimmers feared one of their coaches, Shawn Rivera, also might have become a victim. Rivera, along with bus driver Terry Grant, were trying to assist the driver and passenger of the car and the driver of the truck while head coach Jay Dayton was still with the swimmers on the bus.
"You couldn't really make the car out. It was on the edge of what we could see. We could hear when the truck hit the car. It was loud. We were worried for Shawn," one swimmer said, noting that the whiteout conditions allowed them to see only about 15 feet.
After Grant and Root were able to remove the Malibu's driver from the wrecked car, Grant brought the driver to the bus, and the swimmers began to provide first aid.
"We decided that we had to act for the safety of the occupants of the car. It was unbelievable how these kids went to work and worked together," Dayton said.
Root, who said his work on a ranch helped him during ordeal, reached out to his mother, Toni Root, who is a nurse, via cell phone.
"She told me what to tell the team to do to keep these guys alive," Root said.
Cortez and Horyza, both certified lifeguards, opened both of the two first aid kits on board the bus and went to work.
"Terry handed him (the injured car driver) off to us. We laid him across seats, and right then Romelo and I took over working on the dad," Horyza said.
Cortez said they put on gloves because the man was bleeding profusely.
"He had lost probably a pint of blood. We assessed what was wrong, and he told us his right leg hurt. His ankle was the size of a softball," Horyza said.
Horyza and Cortez had the man lie down near a heater in the back of the bus and did their best to stop the bleeding.
"We needed to make sure that he didn't stop breathing," Horyza said, noting that both he and Cortez were prepared to administer CPR if needed.
In the meantime, coaches Dayton and Rivera had rescued the driver's son, who was the passenger of the crashed car. The swimmers guessed was about 18 years old. He was brought to the bus in a wheelchair.
"By this time, the son was on the bus too. I knew those two (Cortez and Horyza) were good with the dad because they were trained. Adrian was keeping the kid calm and (Stransky) was holding the phone so I could hear my mom. She told me to go through the procedure like she does. Where does it hurt, pain tolerance, and stuff like that," Root said.
Realizing that the son was frightened and possibly in shock, Cook tried his best to keep the younger patient calm.
"I just held his hand and told him to look in my eyes. He kept asking for his dad, and I kept telling him where his dad was. I was keeping him as calm as possible and kept talking," Cook said.
Root, Cook and Stransky then crafted a splint for the son's leg.
"It was definitely broken. You could see the skin through the side. His arm was dislocated too," Root said.
When EMTs arrived at the scene, the swimmers assisted in back-boarding the father and helped get both victims into the ambulance.
"It was really, really uniform as to how we worked without even vocally communicating. We worked side by side, and we knew what we had to do. These guys were phenomenal," Horyza said.
Asked whether this was the scariest moment of their lives, the swimmers agreed it was right up there.
"There are probably more to come," Cook said.
The Wolverines will travel back to Gillette this Friday and Saturday to compete in the Class 4-A North swim meet.
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