Mormon men respond to overturned car submerged in canal, save girls trapped inside

Joe Campbell, right, and Kory Wilcox helped save two girls on Sunday who were trapped in a car that was submerged in a canal near Rexburg. Courtesy photo

Joe Campbell, right, and Kory Wilcox helped save two girls on Sunday who were trapped in a car that was submerged in a canal near Rexburg.
Courtesy photo

By Nate Eaton East Idaho News

A typical Mormon Young Men leadership meeting near Rexburg took an unusual turn Sunday evening that resulted in two leaders saving teenage girls trapped in a submerged car.

Around 15 men from Young Men presidencies in the Rexburg South Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were gathered at the chapel on 8000 South in Archer.

They were discussing a variety of issues when one of the leaders, who is an on-call volunteer for the Madison Fire Department, interrupted the speaker around 6:10 p.m.

“He said he just got a notification that there was something going on down the road,” Joe Palmer, a leader at the meeting, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “He made it sound like someone was pinned underneath a car and said we could get there faster than the ambulance.”

Everyone in the group jumped from their seats and ran to their vehicles.

“We were flying down there, expecting that a bunch of us would pick up the car off the person,” Palmer says.

Palmer and two other men, Kory Wilcox and Joe Campbell, led the way in Palmer’s pickup truck. They arrived at 1952 West 6000 South, the scene of the emergency, before everyone else and found that the vehicle was not on top of anyone but was actually upside down in a canal full of water.

“We pulled up to the address and saw the commotion. I ran up to access the situation and, before I knew it, Kory and Joe went blowing by me on either side and jumped right in,” Palmer recalls.

Two teenage girls were trapped inside the car, which was quickly filling up with water. A teenage boy who had been inside the vehicle managed to escape and was working to get the girls out.

“People were hollering, ‘There are people in there! There are people in there!’ and we just jumped in without thinking or talking much,” Wilcox says. “It was dark, and the water was cold, but we just did it.”

Wilcox is 6 feet, 8 inches tall, and the water was high enough to cover his waist. Inside the vehicle, Wilcox says, only 6 to 8 inches of air space were left.

“They jumped onto the door and ripped it wide open,” Palmer says. “They ripped the first girl out and they thought that was it. Someone said there was another person in there, and they ripped her out, too.”

Wilcox and Campbell helped the girls to safety and climbed out of the water.

They then got back into Palmer’s pickup truck and, with wet pants and water squishing in their shoes, returned to the church building to continue their meeting.

“The entire ordeal took less than five minutes,” Wilcox says. “On the way back to the church, we passed the ambulance and the sheriff deputies.”

Wilcox and Campbell acted so quickly that many of the other young men leaders had no idea what they had done until they saw their wet clothing back at the meetinghouse.

“Kory and Joe pulled them out of the water and the canal before the rest of our group had even showed up,” Palmer says.

Lt. Dave Stoddard of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office says the vehicle ended up in the water after the driver became distracted and veered off the road. She ended up hitting a bridge, which caused the car to roll upside down into the canal.

“A teenage male passenger was able to get out of the vehicle but two female teenagers remained inside,” Stoddard says. “Once they were pulled from the car, they were checked on scene. None of them had any injuries and no property, other than the vehicle, was damaged.”

The leaders finished their meeting at the church and Wilcox returned home to explain to his wife why he had wet shoes and pants.

He says he and Campbell were simply helping and aren’t looking for any special attention.

“Everyone was just jumping in and doing what they could to help,” Wilcox says. “I’m just glad we could play a part of it.”

Palmer adds, “Those two were awesome. They were killer. They deserved to be honored.”