News >> Browse Articles >> Heroes


Boy, 12, Rescues Three Toddlers in Fatal Crash

Boy, 12, Rescues Three Toddlers in Fatal Crash

Cory Arnett (right)

The Salt Lake Tribune via YellowBrix

June 17, 2010

NEW HARMONY, UT – Twelve-year-old Cory Arnett was on a midday drive Monday with a neighbor and three preschoolers when he started feeling nervous about how fast they were traveling on the poorly maintained dirt canyon road.

Beth Donnelly, 23, was driving the 2003 Ford Explorer on Pace Canyon Road. In the backseat were her 2-year-old daughter, Berlin, another 2-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy.

“I put on my seat belt and next thing I knew we careened off the road and flipped, landing in the river bottom,” Cory said Tuesday of the 2:30 p.m. accident.

He said he blacked out briefly.

“When I came to, kids were screaming and crying and the driver was lying out the door,” he said. “There was a 3-year-old boy wedged between the dashboard and windshield. I grabbed him and put him out on the bank and then got the others out one at a time.”

Cory said Donnelly was face down and when he turned her over, he saw she was bleeding heavily and unresponsive. He said he began helping the boy up the 15-foot embankment by pushing him from behind. He then climbed up himself, holding one girl under his arm while the other clung to his leg.

Donnelly’s daughter was screaming for her mother, but Cory said he knew he couldn’t let her see her mom.

Once back on the road, Cory told the children to sit in the shade of a tree while he went for help in town about two miles away. He was walking down the road when he flagged down a woman in an all-terrain vehicle who turned out to be a nurse. She called paramedics from Cedar City and went back to the accident scene to check on the children. Amazingly, all of them were released after being checked at a local hospital.

Donnelly died at the scene.

Cory’s father, Dan Arnett, said Tuesday he was proud of his son, who lives in South Ogden but is visiting for the summer.

“My buttons would be popping off my chest if I had any,” he said. “Can you imagine what might of happened to those kids if he wasn’t there?”

Donnelly’s husband, Jesse, also characterized Cory as a hero for his calm and courage.

He described his wife of two years as a loving and spiritual person, who was well liked in the community. “She would do anything for anybody anytime,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better mom.”

In addition to Berlin, the couple has a 15-month-old son, Tegan, who was home with his father at the time of the accident.

Jesse Donnelly said his wife often babysat and was taking her charges for a drive to fill the time.

“They were just out for a ride and on the way back, she may have turned her head back to the [children],” he said Tuesday. “There was no indication like skid marks she tried to stop. She just got too close to the edge.”

Jesse Donnelly’s sister, Selina Donnelly, who came to New Harmony from Paris, Calif., to be with her brother, described her sister-in-law as “huge-hearted with a good soul….She was too young to die.”

She said the community is rallying around her brother, bringing food to the house Tuesday and even mowing his lawn. “They are good people.”

Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Robert Torsigni said it appears Donnelly was traveling too fast to negotiate a curve. He said the vehicle spun 180 degrees and went down the hillside backward, flipping end over end.

Jesse Donnelly said the couple’s two dogs, Maddox and Layla, were also in the car. Maddox ran off after the accident but later returned. Layla was still missing Tuesday.