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‘She’s been really brave:’ Idaho teen miraculously survives rollover crash

ROBERTS, Idaho — A 16-year-old Idaho girl is home recovering after being in a car crash that left her with several injuries, including a broken neck.

Aleah Orr lives in Rigby but is a student at Madison High School in Rexburg. On May 12, which was Mother’s Day and her mom’s birthday, Aleah decided to go fishing. Her mom, Sarah Orr, told her daughter loves fishing and was headed out to the Mike Walker Boat Dock in Roberts when the crash happened.

“She missed her turn, and her (GPS) maps dinged and said she missed her turn, and she looked at her maps,” Orr explained. “Next thing she knew, she hit the guardrail — and the speed limit out there is 55, so it’s high speed — and (flipped her car) like 50 feet … she landed feet from the river.”

During the crash, the driver’s side seat ended up laying back flat. Aleah was laying back in her seat but a little to the right, and her neck and head were pressed up against the back seat’s backrest. She was pinned inside with her seat belt on; a piece of the car was on top of her, and her headrest came off and was next to her head.

“She couldn’t get out. She said that was the scariest part,” Orr said. “She was screaming for help and trying to get up, but she couldn’t get up.”

A young couple driving behind Aleah noticed a dust cloud, looked down and saw Aleah’s car and called 911. Meanwhile, Orr received a crash notification on her phone alerting her of the accident because she is Aleah’s emergency contact.

Orr called her daughter three times, and after not getting a response, she got in her car and called 911 on the way to the boat dock.

“(Dispatch) said there was a report of a crash,” Orr recalled. “My first question was: ‘Was it one or two cars?’ And my second question was: ‘Is she in the river?’ They verified she was not.”

On the way to the scene, an unknown number called Orr. The woman on the other line explained that she was with Aleah and that she was awake and talking.

“She was very calm, so that eased me thinking, ‘OK, it’s not so bad,’ but then when I got there and saw the state of the car, my heart dropped,” Orr, who is also a firefighter and paramedic for the Madison Fire Department, said. “I’ve seen less of a crash do more damage or take people’s lives.”

This undated photo shows the guardrail Aleah Orr hit in the May 12 accident.
This undated photo shows the guardrail Aleah Orr hit in the May 12 accident. (Photo: Sarah Orr)

“I think being pinned in the car was a blessing because of her injury that she had,” Orr said. “Had she gotten up, she could have done more damage or ultimately paralyzed herself, worst case scenario.”

Aleah ended up breaking her neck at two spots, dissected her left vertebral artery, had a lung contusion, head lacerations and a broken left hand. She was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center before being flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City to meet with a specialist and undergo surgery.

“Anything to do with the cervical, the higher up the break is, the worse possible outcomes of (being) quadriplegic, unable to breathe, be on a ventilator the rest of your life-type thing,” Orr explained. “With the initial imaging, the doctor was like, ‘She’s so lucky. (There’s) maybe some contusions on her spinal cord, and that’s why her limbs are weak right now.'”

Aleah’s vertebral artery straightened out after doctors straightened her spine and fused it together. She had four pins and four cervical vertebrae fused together. She was up and walking two days after surgery and was discharged from the hospital Friday.

Aleah Orr recovers in the hospital after a May 12 crash.
Aleah Orr recovers in the hospital after a May 12 crash. (Photo: Sarah Orr)

“(She’s handling it) like a champ,” Orr said. “She’s been really brave through this whole thing and thankful to be alive and have the use of her limbs. It’s a hard lesson to learn. Even though it’s just Google Maps, it still can take your attention away to new drivers.”

Orr is extra grateful her daughter is still here with her as the past year-and-a-half has been difficult for the Orr family. Within that timeframe, Orr’s husband died, her husband’s best friend who her kids grew up with calling him uncle died and her nephew recently died.

“(Aleah) says her cousin took the wheel and said ‘Hold on, cousin’ and her dad wrapped her up in his wings and kept her safe,” Orr mentioned. “She said she said a prayer before anybody got there and after she was done saying prayer, she knew everything would be okay.”

Orr wants to thank everyone who has shown support, encouragement and love towards her family during this challenging time.

“It’s amazing how much support you really have when things go bad and I appreciate it,” she added.

Aleah’s friends started a GoFundMe to help with the medical expenses and anything else that is needed with follow-up care.

* does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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