Firefighters save lives for a living. So when a fireman from Texas received a call on Saturday about coming to the rescue for the victims of a head-on car collision, he raced to the scene.
But the two people who were badly injured in the accident were not just ordinary citizens—they were his wife and his 7-year-old son.
“It’s my family. My wife was laying there on the ground. (By) the look of the car, I don’t know how either one of them lived. There was nothing left of that car,” Aaron Van Riper, Assistant Chief for the Thomas Lake Fire Department, tearfully told KRTK News, an ABC affiliate.
A photo of the Van Riper family car at the scene. (Photo: ABC)
Aaron admits that he lost his composure when he realized his son, Jonathan (who the family refers to as Bear), was pinned inside the vehicle. “Once I saw my son, that kind of went out the window and I started going into a little bit of panic mode.”
Jonathan Van Riper and Amber Ven Riper. (Photo: GoFundMe)
Both of them were reported to have suffered from “a number of fractures.”
Jonathan Van Riper recovering at the hospital. (Photo: GoFundMe)
On Sunday, Amber, who is listed in “critical condition,” underwent a nine-hour surgery on her pelvis, which had been broken in five places. Aaron told KTRT that Amber responded to doctors by simply giving them the thumbs up. “That’s the first time that she showed any signs of anything.”
Jonathan suffered a broken arm and leg, and both mother and son will be relying on wheelchairs as they face their recovery.
Amber Van Riper recovering at the hospital. (Photo: GoFundMe)
On Monday, Aaron posted a Facebook update, saying his wife whispered, “I love you.”
The Facebook post reads:
so i have good news this morning my loving and very stubborn wife decided that a half hour before they were going to remove her breathing tube that being fully restrained and sliding her fractured hand from her splint that she has had enough of the tube and removed it herself…her nurse and doctors were not very pleased but she is now tube free and breathing I her own we are happy with her progress but she still has some hurdles to overcome she had developed a blood clot in her pelvic area they are concerned but treating her for it….i still can’t express my gratitude enough to all that have donated and prayed and sent there love….thank you all from the bottom of my heart my family is forever grateful and to all my brothers And sisters in the fire departments across the country thank your for your support….Amber may kick my but later but i wanted to share a photo so happy my wife got to whisper i love you to me today sooooo happy i will be setting up a page just for her and give progress reports daily thanks again all
And there’s another stressful component to this family’s situation — they do not have health insurance, even though Amber works full time. Friends have come to their rescue and established a GoFundMe page in order to help pay for the Van Riper’s ongoing medical expenses.
Jonathan Van Riper surrounded by family (and stuffed animals). (Photo: GoFundMe)
Aaron was humbled by the offer. “I don’t want anything for free, I don’t expect anything. If people are willing to donate, that’s awesome.”
He’s also incredibly grateful that his wife and son survived what could have been a fatal accident. “By the looks of that car, the fact that they’re alive, it’s a feat. God has some amazing things for them, I’m guessing.”
On Thursday, friends of the family noticed that a large donation to the family’s GoFundMe page, but no other than Taylor Swift.
A friend of the family told Buzzfeed News that the VanRiper family and their are incredibly moved by Swift’s gesture, which Buzzfeed says was not a hoax. “This woman is amazing,” she said.