SAN ANTONIO – Two men who tried to rescue a woman from her overturned car in an icy creek shared their story on Wednesday.
Mitchell Miller and Jason Vela passed by the accident scene in the 5000 block of New Sulphur Springs Road on Monday morning. Miller said he initially stopped out of curiosity because he saw people looking over a bridge.
When he realized they were starring at an overturned car partially submerged in the creek, he and Vela jumped into action.
"I automatically said to everybody out loud, 'If there's a vehicle down there, there's got to be someone in it. If not one person, maybe a whole family,'" Miller said.
Without hesitation, Miller and Vela walked down to the creek to search the vehicle for a driver and passengers.
Vela, a former Army paratrooper, was first in the water.
"We just got down there as quickly as we could. It was just instinct," Vela said. "I saw her leg, floating in the water. I was like, 'Come on, Mitch, we got to get her out of here.'"
Vela entered the vehicle through an open door and began pulling on the unconscious victim, but she was pinned in.
"There were many attempts trying to get her out and I was going under water even, seeing if I could budge her. It was her leg that was pinned all the way on the other side of the car," Vela said. "We got her leg free, and, you know, both of us were able to pull her out."
They moved the woman to the creek bank and began performing CPR, a skill both men were trained in but had never used.
"Those are skills that you just react to something like that, you don't think, you just react," Vela said. "I started pumping, he was giving breaths."
The pair continued administering CPR until first responders arrived and took over. By the time they transported the woman to San Antonio Military Medical Center, they had re-established a pulse.
Sadly, the woman identified by the Bexar County Medical Examiners office as 57-year-old Ellen Kraus, died later that day from her injuries.
Vela and Miller said they were devastated when they heard the woman had passed away.
Miller said he's had a difficult time dealing with what he witnessed.
"I keep getting visuals of the person. If we were just there a couple minutes earlier, maybe things could have changed for the better and we would have had a totally different outcome," Miller said. "The reward in all of this is just knowing in your heart, it's a good feeling knowing you were there to give this person a chance at life. We did what we did and we tried our best."
Vela said he wouldn't hesitate to help again.
"Most definitely. That's a life. That's a human being. What if you were in that situation? You would want someone to help you," Vela said.
San Antonio police are still investigating the accident and have not determined what caused Kraus to lose control of her car. She was just over a mile from her home.