The rescuers who pulled teacher Kelli Groves and her two daughters from a wrecked BMW that teetered off a Santa Barbara County bridge last month say they were forever changed and touched by the event.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Donald Clotworthy called it a “once-in-a-career” accident, the kind you train for but hope to never see firsthand.
Rescuers said they were impressed by Groves’ strong will to care for her children – even trapped in a nightmare of twisted metal – as evidenced by her care in finding the very best car seat for baby Mylo, and her grace under pressure.
“It’s a life-changing experience,” Clotworthy said. “It will always be with her. It brought us all together in a special way.”
By extension, the rescuers also feel connected to Del Obispo students who after the event.
“They were just as cute as can be,” Clotworthy said of the valentines.
Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Patrick Byde said the box of valentines was huge.
"We greatly appreciate this gesture and wish the Groves family our best during this time of recovery," he said.
On one of the valentines, a student drew a picture of a tow truck holding Groves’ car with a winch. “Thank you for saving Mrs. Groves,” it said, reported Clotworthy.
“How can you not shed a tear for something like that,” Clotworthy said.
Clotworthy said he hopes to make the 180-mile trip south to San Juan Capistrano. He was the incident commander at the scene, but previously served as a CHP public information officer, often visiting schoolchildren. Elementary students were always his favorite, and he feels one more visit is due.
Meanwhile, tow-truck driver Brian Gomez and other rescuers will be honored by the city of Buellton on Wednesday.
Santa Barbara County Fire Battalion Chief Woody Enos also looks forward to the day he meets up with Groves once again.
“Maybe one day, they might actually come up here. Maybe when she gets better in a year,” he said.