Police officers who pulled five children - only three of them alive - from a submerged car in a St. Louis Park pond last week say they were feeling frustration and fear. But their comrades say several of them acted heroically.
Fox 9 spoke with some of the first responders who arrived on the scene after the deadly accident. Officer Aaron Trant tells the station when he and his partner saw two people standing in water up to their waists, they didn't initially realize that Marion Guerrido and a man who tried to help her were standing on the roof of a car.
"When she said there were children in the car -- the emotions on both of our faces. I can't imagine. To see that and to hear that, both being fathers, it was difficult," Trant said.
Guerrido's car had left a highway entrance ramp and rolled down an embankment into the frigid 8-foot-deep water of the pond.
Eventually a fire department diver using his feet to feel his way through the murky water was able to pull the children from the car one at a time, Fox reports.
KSTP reports community members prayed at a Minneapolis church Sunday for the recovery of the three surviving children, who are one, five, and six years old.
Meanwhile, the mother of two of the children involved in the accident shared her story with WCCO.
Shaniece Thompson, 25, is the mother of 5-year-old Zenavia Rennie, who died when the car she was riding in was submerged in the frigid water. Thompson's 6-year-old daughter Zarihana Rennie remains hospitalized in critical condition. “I didn’t get to see her wake up that morning. I wasn’t there. I didn’t even get to say, really, goodbye,” she said. “She was gone when I made it to her.”
They were among the five children inside the car that was submerged for at least 25 minutes. The driver, Guerrido, 23, had three of her own children in the car, along with Thompson’s two children. Guerrido is dating Zarihana and Zenavia’s father. Guerrido has a permit, but not a valid Minnesota Driver's License, according to a report from Fox 9. “I’m angry about the fact she was driving without a license. I’m angry at the fact she put all those kids in a small car,” Thompson said.
Guerrido's son, 7-year-old Alarious Coleman-Guerrido also died in the crash. Guerrido's children who were injured in the accident, 5-year-old Amani Coleman-Guerrido, and 1-year-old Aliyana Rennie, remain hospitalized. KSTP reports that family spokesman Rick Petry said Saturday that Amani and Aliyana have opened their eyes and moved their fingers and toes and continue to respond to verbal commands. He called it "a huge improvement."
Petry said the family's primary focus is "to do everything they can to make sure the three kids survive this," according to a report in the Star Tribune.
Meanwhile, Thompson just gave birth to a new baby. Thompson told KMSP that the stress of the accident caused her to go into premature labor. She gave birth on Thursday to a 3 lb. baby; Thompson said she was only 32 weeks pregnant. The baby, named Dream, is in neo-natal intensive care at Abbott Northwestern.
“My body is numb because, it’s like, you hear, ‘Oh, I’m sorry for your loss … congrats on a new baby,’” she said. "I’m just trying to breathe through out every second that I walk through this hospital, and I just know. I look at pictures in my phone and I’m just like, 'This really cannot be happening right now.’”
The accident wasn't the first at the intersection. WCCO reports that 18 crashes have been reported at the intersection from 2010-2012, including one last year when a car ended up in the same retention pond.