POSTED: 7:15 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:38 a.m. HST, Dec 16, 2011
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah >> A Utah police officer who held the hand of a frightened 24-year-old badly injured woman pinned under a bus said he promised not to leave her until she got out alive.
A photo captures West Valley City officer Kevin Peck wedged between an icy street and the undercarriage of a commuter bus Monday, his blue latex-gloved hands clutching the hands of a Aryann Smith, whose legs were crushed.
"She was very scared. She asked me not to leave. So I said I would just stay under there with her until we got her out," Peck told the Deseret News.
The nine-year department veteran was around the corner when a Utah Transit Authority bus struck and ran over Smith around 10:30 a.m. in a crosswalk.
Peck said he crawled under the bus to take a pulse on the woman, whose legs were gashed open and whose face was hardly visible behind blood and her hair. Smith told him she couldn't feel anything below her waist.
The two didn't let go until fire crews lifted the vehicle off of her.
"She was afraid she was going to die. And myself being under there, I'm just praying and hoping for some reason the bus doesn't move," Peck said. "We're right next to the tire underneath the bus, just trying to reassure her and keep her calm."
The woman told Peck she had been on her way to see a child who her mother was caring for down the road when she was struck. Peck said it took several minutes for emergency personnel to slide a backboard below Smith and pull her from under the vehicle.
She was taken to the hospital, and is not expected to lose her legs.
Police say it appears the bus driver didn't see Smith while she was in the crosswalk and failed to yield. Authorities say the driver was cited and is on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Peck said he hopes to visit Smith in the hospital, and told the newspaper that the experience reminded him of why he became an officer in the first place — to help people.
"I think sometimes as a police officer I forget that, until you're in a situation that doesn't require arresting anybody or investigating some sort of crime," he said.