Joshua and Talitha Grimmett said they immediately sensed that something more than motor trouble had occurred.
As they passed a car stopped in the middle of High Bridge at Lucky Peak Reservoir last week, Talitha said, she noticed the young woman in the driver’s seat was just staring down.
“What a terrible place for your car to break down,” Talitha recalled thinking initially. But after seeing the woman get out of her car, she wondered out loud to her husband whether the woman planned to jump.
The couple, who had their 20-month-old daughter Abigail with them, said they pulled off the highway to go back to help the woman push the car out of the way of traffic. As they were preparing to get out of their truck, Joshua said he witnessed a horrifying sight in his rearview mirror.
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“She just flung herself over,” he told the Statesman in an interview at the Grimmetts’ North End home Thursday.
It was the first of two shocking incidents in a little more than a week near High Bridge. On Thursday four people died after the SUV they were in plunged into the reservoir. The details of that incident are still under investigation.
The Grimmetts, both in their early 30s, were on their way home from worship and dinner May 25 at Mountain Meadow Christian Center at Robie Creek when the life-and-death drama unfolded.
It was about 8:15 p.m., and there was little if any traffic on Idaho 21.
Joshua ran to the bridge to see whether he could locate the woman in the water. He could see that she was floating and still alive. He might have jumped in after her, but his wife pleaded with him to be careful.
“Remember, you have a baby,” Talitha said she called out to her husband, whom she described as a daredevil.
He admits he thought about it for a split second. A thrill-seeker who grew up in Mountain Home, he said he has jumped off bridges for recreational purposes all over Southwest Idaho. As an adult with a family, the danger of jumping off High Bridge, even to save another person, was too much.
He decided the safest, quickest thing to do was get into the woman’s idling car and drive it to the south side of the bridge, and then set off on foot down the steep, rocky, sagebrush-covered hillside to the water.
After making sure their daughter was safe, Talitha flagged down a passing motorist and asked them to call 911.
Anyone familiar with the reservoir knows that getting down to the water is no small feat. But it’s not something Joshua lingers on when telling the story. He said he just “shimmied” down.
‘GO GET THE GIRL’
Once at the water’s edge, Joshua, a former lifeguard, shed his T-shirt and shoes and emptied his pockets of his cellphone and other items.
He stood in the water for a moment and called to the woman, who was about 120 to 150 yards from the shore, he said. She was floating on her back, he said.
“I could see she was starting to bob,” said Joshua, who believes he got divine guidance on what to do next. “I heard a voice: ‘Josh, your feet have gone numb. Your body is going to go numb. Go get the girl.’ ”
He also heard the woman call for help.
By this time, he could see seven or eight people — passing motorists who had stopped — watching him from the cliffs on the other side of the canyon. Some of those folks helped in other ways, bringing coats and blankets, and sending a boat over from the nearby Spring Shores Marina.
The water was about 40 degrees at the time, authorities told Joshua later. It doesn’t take long for a person to suffer the debilitating effects of hypothermia in water that cold.
Joshua recalled diving into the water, scraping his shins on rocks near the shore. He said he swam at a brisk pace toward the woman and talked to her as he drew close. He was trying to gauge her frame of mind and what she would do when he reached her, he said.
He worried that she might be panicked and latch on to him in a way that could take them both down.
“She hardly moved at all,” he said, so he grabbed the back of her shirt and pulled her along with him.
On the way back to shore, Joshua began to have trouble catching his breath. He said he floated on his back for a bit, until he felt less winded.
“I went into some sort of shock,” he said, thinking back on the experience.
He said he didn’t float for long because he felt like they both needed to get to shore as soon as possible. Once they reached the shore, the woman held onto a large rock until paramedics pulled her out of the water and on to a stretcher.
Joshua believes the woman landed on her back because it was bruised almost beyond belief.
“It was bad. It was really bad,” he said. “It looked like it was hemorrhaging.”
He said he didn’t really talk to her, except to try to keep her calm by telling her to breathe. He sat in the water with her for a couple of minutes and listened to the sirens approaching.
Once paramedics began aiding the young woman, Joshua said he felt like his job was done. He set off hiking back up the hillside — which proved much harder than going down. On the way up, a man stopped him to help him warm up.
“The guy wouldn’t let me pass him until I put a coat on,” he said.
Paramedics wrapped him in blankets and gave him water. Firefighters gave their daughter a teddy bear, which she is still very attached to a week later.
The woman he rescued was ferried on a small fishing boat to Spring Shores, where she was picked up by an air ambulance.
PRAYERS FOR HEALING
Joshua and Talitha have busy lives. They’re raising two small children and running two businesses, Kinections PaddleBoard Rental & Sales and Painting & Roofing by Kinections.
But they said they’re still thinking about — and praying for — the woman from Lucky Peak. They said they didn’t realize how anxious they were feeling until they got word from authorities that she was going to survive. They said they’ve been hearing positive news about her chances for a full recovery.
The Grimmetts said they think about the rescue every time they cross High Bridge. Talitha said she gets goose bumps, and Joshua said he can still point to the exact spot in the water where the woman was.
They said the woman’s family has reached out to the couple, expressing both gratitude and a desire to meet them.
Joshua said he doesn’t think it was a coincidence that they happened to be crossing the bridge at that exact time.
“The Lord put us there, so we did a deed,” Joshua said.