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Rescuers dropped blankets to crash victims as they waited to be rescued from icy river

The two victims who were trapped in an SUV after it plunged into the Spring River on Thursday died from blunt head trauma, the state medical examiner reported. The five survivors remained Friday in Joplin, Mo., hospitals.
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL sheilastogsdill@sbcglobal.net Modified: February 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm •  Published: February 4, 2011

— Rescue workers dropped blankets over the bridge railing Thursday to wreck victims waiting to be plucked from the roof of a sport utility vehicle that had landed in the frigid waters of the Spring River.

“They were dressed mostly in light coats,” Frank Geasland, Ottawa County emergency management director, said of the mushroom farm workers who were traveling to Miami from Carthage, Mo., when the accident happened about 6 a.m. on the Will Rogers Turnpike. “One only had a T-shirt on; I don't know if he lost his coat trying to get out.”

Geasland said the six people who managed to climb out of the vehicle as it rested in water about 5 feet deep were exposed for two hours to the minus 11 degree temperatures.

After dive team members reached them, two survivors were placed on backboards and the boat was pushed to the shore. Divers followed in the same manner with the other survivors, Geasland said, then opened the door of the SUV and cut the seat belts to free the two people who were inside but had not survived the accident.

Leonor Alcano, 31, and Irma Garcia, 37, died at the scene from blunt force trauma, according to Cherokee Ballard, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner.

The third victim, Douglas Monzon, 22, had fallen from the roof, Geasland said.

“When we got to him, he was still under water,” he said.

Monzon was attempting to grab a rescue rope when he fell into the water, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers said. He died Thursday at the hospital.

Geasland, the leader of the dive team, described the accident scene as horrific.

The five survivors remained hospitalized Friday in Joplin, Mo. Julio Garcia, 21, was listed in fair condition, said Christen Stark, Freeman Health System spokeswoman. Samuel Hernandez, 22, also was taken to the Joplin hospital, but Stark said she had no information about his condition.

Fransica Cosagua, 21, was listed Friday in good condition. Mario Romero, 30, was in serious condition, and Eli Feliberto, 19, was in fair condition, said Miranda Lewis, St. John's Medical Center spokeswoman.

The group was from Guatemala, said Evelyn Chavez, a friend who lives in Carthage. She said Monzon left behind a 1-year-old daughter. Chavez said it isn't known when or where a memorial service will be held.

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