Toddler who was trapped in ice is serving in Navy 20 years later | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Toddler who was trapped in ice is serving in Navy 20 years later

Linda Monohan / Special to the Record-Courier
Stevie Edmonds then
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Remember the Christmas miracle of Stevie Edmonds? It happened on Dec. 21, 1987, when the 19-month-old toddler was trapped under the icy waters of the Upper Allerman Canal along Toler Lane in Gardnerville. Little Stevie was submerged, upside down, in his mother’s Ford Bronco for about 24 minutes. That was 24 minutes without oxygen.

Dec. 21, 2007, marked the 20th anniversary of Stevie’s miracle.

It was early in the morning, and Christmas was just four days away when the terrible accident occurred. The air was bitterly cold, and the freezing drizzle had turned the asphalt into a slippery sheet of black ice.

Deborah Edmonds, 19, and her young son skidded off the icy road, down an embankment and overturned into an ice-covered irrigation canal. The force of the impact broke through about 3 inches of ice, and the roof of the car immediately settled into the muddy river bottom. The water was 5 feet deep, so only the tips of the four wheels showed through the hole in the ice. The Bronco was upside down and covered with water.

Deborah Edmonds was injured, and she tried desperately to find her son, but she was unsuccessful in the dark, murky water. All around her floated pieces of ice and glass. Somehow, she managed to crawl through a broken window and escape from the submerged car. Emergency responders arrived quickly, and four of them performed a rescue in the icy water. Little Stevie was unconscious, white, stiff, had no pulse and was not breathing.

The dramatic rescue and resuscitation by Bobby Wartgow, Don Stangle, Steve Morgan and Greg Curtis received worldwide media attention and was featured on the “CBS Nightly News” and “Good Morning America.” This was because there was something very special about this cold-water drowning case. Even though Stevie was without a pulse and not breathing for about 24 minutes, he survived it without any evidence of neurological damage.

Because the water was very cold, it triggered a phenomenon known as the mammalian diving reflex. This occurs when extremely cold water slows down normal body functions. The trachea closes, preventing water from entering the lungs. The heart rate decreases sharply and diverts the oxygenated blood from less vital organs, such as the kidneys and muscles, directly to the brain.

The rescue was a total team effort, and everything clicked together perfectly to save Stevie’s life.

It’s been 20 years since the accident, and some may wonder how Stephen Edmonds is doing today. He still shows no evidence of neurological damage. He graduated from Douglas High School in 2004 when he was 18, then joined the Navy. He’s been in the Navy for three years now, and he proudly wears a patch with a parachute with wings on it signifying him as a parachute rigger.

Stephen Edmonds presently is at the Lemoore Naval Air Station, but he’ll be stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in January. Then he will go on his third deployment to the Persian Gulf. The ship is scheduled to return next May, and shortly after that, he and his fiancée, Tiffany Strickler, will be married.


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