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On Sunday afternoon, Alex Thomas sat on a porch swing surrounded by family and friends. That wouldn’t seem noteworthy, except that a week earlier at that time, she was at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville waiting to check out.
On May 25, Alex spent two to three minutes passed out and underwater, pinned by a Kubota rugged terrain vehicle. She was revived when friends Alyssa McRay, Cameron Goodin and Jacob Marples were able to push the RTV off her, and Jacob, administered CPR.
“These are our three heroes forever,” said Tammy Thomas*, Alex’s mother. “We’ll be forever grateful for them,”
On the day of the accident, Alex, Alyssa and Jacob — all of whom just finished their freshman year at Marion County High School — decided to take a quick ride on the RTV around the lake that sits behind the McRays’ house.
The three of them were riding in the two-person vehicle when they had an accident.
“We went down that way, turned around and came back and hit a log, and just went into the water,” Jacob said. “I didn’t see it.”
Alex said she remembers hitting the log, but she doesn’t remember hitting the water.
“I remember being under and being trapped by one of the bars. I tried kicking to get out, but I couldn’t. I was trapped,” she said.
Alex added that her boots came off during the 10 to 15 seconds she tried to free herself.
When Jacob emerged from the water, he said he spotted Alyssa and asked if she was OK. Then he saw Alex’s boots floating in the water.
“I dived under the water trying to find her,” he said.
Jacob saw that the RTV had her pinned underwater from the waist up. She was covered in mud, and was passed out.
“We tried to push [the Kubota] up, but we couldn’t do it,” Alyssa said.
That’s when Alyssa ran for help to the Goodins’ house, where they were having a graduation party for their friend Cameron, who had just finished the eighth grade.
Several people at the house called 911 to report the accident (the Lebanon Police Dispatch reported receiving the calls at 7:34 that night), while Alyssa and Cameron ran to the scene.
“I got to the corner and heard Jacob, ‘Pull, pull, pull!’ So I ran over there, jumped in the water. I felt Alex underneath my feet, so I said ‘All right let’s pick her up, get her out,’” Cameron said.
Alyssa said it took all three of them to push the Kubota off of Alex, but that allowed Jacob to pull her out.
“I grabbed her and threw her on the bank,” he said. “I immediately gave her CPR.”
Jacob had been certified in CPR and first aid through the JROTC class at the high school, although he admits he thought it was “stupid” at the time he took the class.
He doesn’t feel that way any more.
Alyssa said Alex had been underwater at least two or three minutes before they freed her.
According to Jacob, Alex started coughing, spitting up, and crying about the time that Joe Mattingly (Alyssa’s grandfather, who lives next door) and Joey Goodin (Cameron’s father) arrived on the scene.
Christina McRay (Alyssa’s mother) said Mattingly had seen them “riding easy” on the Kubota shortly before he heard something and hopped on his own vehicle.
Mattingly used a handkerchief to wipe mud out of Alex’s eyes and ears.
Alex said she lost her contacts underwater, but when she opened her eyes, she saw Mattingly.
“He was blurry,” she said.
An ambulance arrived shortly thereafter. It was in the area because of another call, which meant they didn’t have to make the drive from Lebanon.
Alex’s parents were at their home in Loretto when they got a call telling them about the accident. Tammy said she had been planning to pick up Alex and Alyssa to bring them back to Loretto, but she was running a little late.
Pat Thomas, Alex’s father, said the sheriff’s deputy who called told them that Alex was OK. She had been in an accident. The deputy explained that she had been underwater for two to three minutes and she had been revived by CPR. He tried repeatedly to reassure them that their daughter was OK.
Were they reassured?
“No,” Pat said. “Even after I saw her, that was the hardest thing ever to see her go in that helicopter.”
Because of Alex’s age, the emergency personal wanted her to go to the hospital just to be certain she was fine. An Air Evac helicopter landed nearby to take her to Kosair.
Tammy Thomas said they did get to see their daughter before she was flown to Louisville.
“As soon as she saw us she started crying and said she was sorry,” Terry said.
Christina McRay was on her way back home when she got a call about the accident. She raced home to find the roads blocked off. She explained that her daughter and her “other daughter” (Alex) had been in the accident, and the EMTs let her through.
Alex also called for Alyssa to come to the ambulance before she was flown away.
“She looked up at me and said, ‘Alyssa, I’m scared,” Alyssa said.
As Alex’s helicopter flew away, her parents started driving to Louisville. They were in Bardstown when they received a call telling them Alex had arrived at Kosair.
Thankfully, Alex checked out of the hospital at 1 p.m. the next day, with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises.
“She walked right out by herself,” Tammy said.
Alyssa went to see Alex as soon as they got home.
“They just hugged forever,” Christina McRay said.
“Hugged and tears,” Pat Thomas added.
Cameron and Jacob came to see her that afternoon as well. Jacob said he was thankful, amazed and nervous to see her.
Christina McRay said she’s been amazed at how the kids have handled what could have been a tragedy. She said she believes they were helped by the outpouring of friendship from others.
Alex and her friends have received cards, and their friends made a two-sided poster with photos and social media messages with encouraging prayers for Alex.
Christina McRay said the kids have told her they don’t want to be called heroes. In their minds, they just did what they had to do to save their friend.
“They sprung into action, and because they did that, they saved Alex’s life,” Christina McRay said. “So they are heroes, whether they like it or not.”
* Tammy Thomas was incorrectly identified as Terry Thomas in the June 5 print edition of this story.