After a family’s SUV blew a tire on an interstate in Brighton, Colorado, it then flipped, ejecting everyone — both parents and four children — inside the vehicle.
It appears none of those in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts, authorities said.
The mother and a child were airlifted to the hospital, while the three remaining children were taken by ambulance.
When police officers arrived, the father was pronounced dead at the scene. All six were ejected from the SUV. One cop, Officer Nick Struck, who was third to arrive at the scene, made it his job to distract one of the toddlers, a 2-year-old girl, so she wouldn’t have to see the aftermath. He was handed the young girl, who wasn’t badly injured, so other officers and paramedics could attend to the rest of her family.
Struck told BuzzFeed that the scene was heartbreaking. “(The) field was scattered with kids,” he said.
“When you hear that there’s children involved, I’ll tell you what, everyone that responds to that scene, you get that pit in your stomach,” Struck told 9News. “The first thing we do when we get on scene is we just try to, if we can comfort anybody, of course, we’re going to go to the kids.”
This viral photo — taken by a witness, Jessica Doug Matrious, who stopped to help the family — shows Struck holding the girl and pointing at something in the distance.
Matrious told NBC News she was driving along the Interstate 76 when she saw the SUV flip and roll into the grass.
“They took an extreme sharp right turn and just immediately started to roll,” she said. “I pulled over, obviously, and started running to the field to see what I could do. It’s so horrible to see something like that happen, especially because it could have been prevented. If the father was wearing a seatbelt, then he’d still be here.”
Struck told KTVR, regarding the 2-year-old he was handed to take care of, “She was crying. She was soaked in gasoline from the truck. The smells were awful.”
“When I held her she fit exactly as my daughter fits in my arms,” he said, explaining how the toddler reminded him instantly of his own 2-year-old daughter.
So, he said his fatherly instincts kicked in. He began singing to the girl “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and rocking her as he does to his own little girl when she is upset.
“She calmed down and she stopped crying,” he said.
“It’s humbling, that’s for sure,” Struck said, regarding the attention he’s received for the photo.
He said that what he did is no different than what any other officer would do.
“It’s kind of a little glimpse but it really does happen every day,” he said.