Members of Seward cross-country ski team help rescue trapped family

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Members of the Seward cross-country ski team paused on their way to the biggest meet of the season to help free five children and their mother who were trapped when their minivan overturned.

The 12-member team was traveling up the Seward Highway in two vans Wednesday afternoon, arriving moments after Emma Valcarcel's minivan hit a snow berm, ricocheted across the highway, landed on the driver's side, skidded and then flipped again.

The vehicle came to rest on its passenger's side at Mile 54 near the Hope Junction, said Sgt. Brandon Anderson, an Alaska state trooper from Seward.

One of the children, 4-year-old Annabell Valcarcel, was thrown while still in a car seat through a broken window in the rear of the van, Anderson said. And a boy's arm was pinned between a door and the vehicle's frame.

''When I saw the scene, I was absolutely sure that (Annabell) was dead,'' said Dennis Perry, one of the team's two coaches, ''but she wasn't.''

Everyone survived the accident, although Annabell was listed in critical condition Thursday at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

Troopers said they believe Emma Valcarcel, 29, of Anchorage was the mother of all five children in the van.

On Thursday, the first day of the state championship cross-country ski meet at Kincaid Park, six girls stood in a circle and talked with a reporter about the unexpected rescue.

It was terrifying, exciting and rewarding, all at the same time, they told the Anchorage Daily News.

Each team member made a difference, and together they may have saved a life.

There was glass and blood everywhere, they said. Team members crouched down and pushed the van up off the ground and then lifted it upright. One person grabbed Annabell, another freed the boy's arm, and others helped the children and the mother from the van.

''It was pure adrenaline,'' said Kelly Houghton, a 15-year-old sophomore.

Carol Clausen, an 18-year-old senior, applied pressure to the boy's arm to stop the bleeding, while Erin Conant, 17, rocked the youngest child, a baby.

Clausen, who said she was covered with blood, used supplies from the team's first aid kit to help the little boy whose arm had been pinned.

The team tried to keep the children separated and distracted so they wouldn't see the others' injuries, said sophomore Marion Glaser, 15.

''The little kids were too young to understand what was going on,'' she said. ''We talked to them and gave them food.''

Coach Perry said he was awed by his team's response.

''It was amazing,'' he said. ''There wasn't a single one that didn't take a role ... and they did it without being asked or coerced.''

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