Tree crushes car; mother & son survive

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

Minutes seemed like hours Monday, as firefighters rushed to save two lives after an intense storm ripped through a Southside neighborhood near Hogan Road.

"Blessed is the only thing that comes to my mind," said Melissa Smith, shortly after she came home from the hospital to be treated for injuries when a tree landed on her car.

The storm reported winds over 50 miles per hour, and a microburst is likely what caused two, decades old, thousand pound oak trees to crash to the ground in front of a home on Ruby Drive East.

Beneath the trees, a car was crushed and inside, a young mother and her 8 year old son were trapped.


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"I heard the alarm going off and the lights blinking,” said Ken Godwin, a next door neighbor who looked outside after hearing the wind knock over his own front porch plants.  “The rain was so heavy, but I had just seen Mel and Caleb’s car return home, and was afraid they were waiting out the storm in the car."

The trees knocked over several power lines that prevented Godwin from attempting to help the pair.

"It looked bad. I expected the worst, but was hoping for the best."

Godwin called 911 and grabbed his camera, along with neighbor Chuck Johnson. Together they captured the dramatic rescue, as more than 15 firefighters rushed to the scene.

First out, was 8 year old Caleb, who just returned home from his first day of 3rd grade. Caleb had been sitting in the front passenger seat. Second, the family dog was pulled from the back seat. Finally, 15 minutes later, Melissa Smith was pulled from the car.  Smith is recovering from a motorcycle accident that nearly killed her earlier this year, and rescuers took extra caution due to spinal injuries that she continues to heal from.

"Somebody was looking out for us.  There really was," said Smith.  "Looking at how this car is caved in on the passenger side I don't know how my baby is not more hurt," added Smith.


Video: Full Interview with Melissa Smith


"How in the world they got out of that alive, I don’t know,” said Godwin.  “Unless the saw the tree coming and they ducked down. That’s the only answer."

Inside the car, there was barely enough room to move. Both Godwin and Johnson called it a miracle.


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