ROBINSON, Mo. – A mother from Robertsville, Missouri, survived the terrifying moments after her SUV plunged into a frigid pond and began to sink Wednesday morning.
What happened next, her family said, is a Thanksgiving miracle. Heather Vaden said her love for her born and unborn children gave her the strength to save them both.
“I don’t really think of it as I’m a hero at all. I just did what I had to do to get him out," said Heather Vaden.
Vaden said she refused to let her 2-year-old son Bently drown in the Robertsville pond along Calvey Creek Road.
That is where they crashed after swerving off the road to avoid hitting what she believed was a dog.
“We went to a ditch and the ditch bounced us up, we ran into a fence, and I remember landing into the pond,” said Vaden.
As soon as they hit the water Vaden said she unbuckled her seat belt and took her son out of his car seat.
“I didn't want him to be stuck if something were to go wrong,” she said.
Water gushed into the front of the SUV as she scrambled to find something to break the rear window, but it was the boots she wore and the power of her kick that shattered the glass.
“I just started kicking the window and it took about five kicks and we finally busted out,” she said.
Vaden pulled Bently out of the rear of the sinking SUV and swam about 30 feet in freezing temperatures to the shore.
“I tried to lift him up further and further, and every time I would do that, it would sink me down further into the water," she said.
Vaden made it to a nearby home where she and Bently began to heat up. Around the same time, her husband Josh saw the couple's car in the water and jumped in to help.
“The pressure of the car sinking was pushing me up and I couldn't get in,” he said.
But then he learned his wife and son were not inside the water-filled SUV. They were safe.
“I'm just beyond grateful right now to have everyone with me my whole family,” Josh said.
Vaden tries not to think of what could have happened. Instead, she sticks with what did.
“Every Thanksgiving we are going to be like ‘this is a miracle,’” said Vaden.
It wasn't until Vaden reached the shore when she realized her arm was broken. The family recovered so quickly they celebrated Thanksgiving with their relatives.