SALT LAKE CITY — A Roy girl is recovering at Primary Children's Hospital after a truck hit and dragged her 120 feet down a busy road by accident. Now, the family is sharing a heartfelt message to the driver.
In looking at pictures of Autumn Carlson, it's pretty clear that's it's a miracle she's alive.
"That little girl is stronger than I ever could imagine," said Kimberley Carlson, Autumn's mom.
The 5-year-old has quite the fight in her as she surprises everyone with her recovery.
Autumn had ridden her bicycle to her elementary school down the street from home on July 6 for the grab-n-go lunch, because Kimberley said Autumn wanted to get some chocolate milk.
As she rode back down the sidewalk, Kimberley explained that Autumn and a Ford F-350 came up to the intersection of 2800 West and 5600 South at the same time. As Autumn went to cross 2800 West, the truck drove forward to turn onto 5600 South.
Trent Owens was the first person to see the truck driving on 5600 South, with something underneath.
"At first I thought somebody had thrown a garbage bag or something in the road and she — the person — had hit it," Trent recounted. "And then I was like, 'Is that a bike under there?'"
He said the truck stopped, drove forward another 20 feet, then backed up. That's when Trent realized it was more than just a bike stuck underneath.
"I saw the kid fall out. And she was just limp," he said.
Trent went running across the street and stopped the truck from driving away, and said he knelt down to Autumn, who was unconscious.
"At first I was terrified that I had come across a dead child," he said. "It wasn't something I wanted to live with."
After a few moments, he said Autumn made some noises and moved her head.
"I was going to say, 'Are you okay?' But, the words that came out were, 'Are you alive?'" Trent said.
Trent and his wife called 911 and from there, he explained other bystanders jumped in to help until police and paramedics arrived.
Kimberley said Autumn was taken to McKay-Dee Hospital, then by Life Flight to Primary Children's Hospital. She described how Autumn has a softball-sized hole in her shoulder down to the muscle, extensive tissue damage and burns to her back, arm, shoulder and collarbone, severe scrapes on her face, and some damage to her head including a potential light concussion.
"I did not think at all that she was as injured as she is," Kimberley said, tearing up. "It's definitely taken a toll on her, on our whole family."
As they now deal with their sweet little girl's horrific situation, Kimberley expressed that she knows the driver is dealing with her own emotions, too.
She said the driver didn't see Autumn as she went to turn, and heard a weird noise but didn't realize what had happened until bystanders flagged her down.
Kimberley said she asked police to relay a message to the woman driving the truck, and also reached out to the driver herself.
"That we loved her. We were sorry, we understood" Kimberley expressed. "We forgave her. She's part of this trauma too."
Wanting to offer compassion, Kimberley said she can't imagine how hard this is for the driver.
Meanwhile, the community is rallying around the family to offer support. Kimberley said they've received donations including gas gift cards for travel to and from the hospital, as well as money to help with any medical bills they might need to take on.
One family friend started a GoFundMe fundraiser.
Many people have stepped forward to offer to replace Autumn's bike and helmet. Kimberley said she plans to use the donations to let Autumn pick out a new bike after she leaves the hospital. Though, she said she isn't sure Autumn will want to ride a bike again because of the trauma.
Autumn has a tough road ahead. Kimberley said Autumn is expected to stay in Primary Children's Hospital another 2 weeks. Autumn underwent an hours-long surgery on Tuesday on her arm and shoulder.
Still, she continues to amaze everyone with her recovery.
"She's tenacious, and smart, and strong," Kimberley said. "I know that she'll pull through. She just will."