Strangers who helped after lake crash thanked

VIENNA — The parents of five children saved by strangers following a single-vehicle accident said they cannot adequately express the level of gratitude they feel.

“They are angels,” said Michelle Campo, who lost control of her family’s van as she was driving home to make sure her daughters made it to school on time. “The back wheels slid as we were turning the curve and the van went off the side of the road.”

Vienna Police Lt. Brian Darbey said the crash is still under investigation.

“The baby was in a carrier and there were car seats and seat belts for the other children,” Darbey said.

“It was terrifying,” Campo said. “I already hated driving in the winter.”

Campo, 28, was traveling north on Niles Vienna Road in the family’s brown 1999 Chevrolet Astro Van after dropping off her husband, Andrew McGregor, at his job when the vehicle began sliding toward the side of the road into an embankment.

The vehicle landed on its side and began filling with water.

“I might have been in shock for a moment, but I turned to begin unbuckling my kids’ seat belts,” she said.

Frances Chervinko, who was driving behind Campo’s van, saw it go sideways and then disappear from sight.

“Initially I thought it might have backed into a driveway, but I decided to back up, get out and check,” Chervinko said.

Seeing the van on its side, Chervinko stopped a truck that was traveling in the opposite direction.

“The truck’s driver immediately slowed down to see what he could do,” she said.

A second vehicle stopped and the driver of that car also ran toward the van. A third man in a plow went down and another woman, Amber Wise, who parked behind Chervinko, called 911 for help.

They five strangers formed a human chain, passing children up and placing most of them in Chervinko’s car.

Joshua Barnes, 26, a student who was headed to school, stopped when he saw one of the rescuer’s vehicle’s emergency lights flashing.

“Helping was the right thing to do,” Barnes said.

Also assisting the family was Michael Montler.

While unaware of the amount of assistance she was getting, Campo knew that someone was on top of the van taking her children as she passed them.

“I was soaking wet,” Campo said. “The water was rising. I just wanted to get them to safety.”

Campo and her husband would like to one day meet the people who helped them.

“There is not much we can do, but to give our thanks and hug them.” she said. “There’s no way I can express the level of appreciation we feel. What happened could have been so much worse.”

The couple just moved into Burghill in November from the Cleveland area.

“We wanted to live in a smaller town with a tight community,” she said. “We found the right place.”

The van, which was the couple’s only transportation, was totaled.

“It can be replaced,” she said.

While Chervinko appreciates the level of gratitude the family has expressed, she does not need to meet with them.

“We were at the right place at the right time,” Chervinko said. “I would like to think anyone would have stopped to help.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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