FITCHBURG — The car his father was driving had just crashed, barreling through a guardrail and into the Nashua River. It left the road at such speed that it flew some 30 feet off the embankment, somehow coming to rest on a sandbar on the far side of the river, fire officials said.
The vehicle was upside down, and his father was trapped in the wreckage. It was the middle of the night. But Joshua Garcia, all of 8, knew what he had to do.
The boy wriggled out of the car, waded through the water, then scrambled up a steep hill to the road. He then walked nearly a mile home to get help, waking his mother to call 911, fire officials said.
A short time later, about 3:30 Thursday morning, responders pulled Garcia’s father, Eugenio Garcia, from the car. He escaped with only minor injuries and was taken to HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster.
A hospital spokeswoman, Mary Lourdes Burke, said Eugenio Garcia was discharged Thursday morning.
“It’s amazing anyone’s alive,” said Brian Belliveau, the city’s deputy fire chief. “I’m not religious, but it was a miracle that these people made it across that river.”
Fitchburg Police Traffic Specialist Paul McNamara said Thursday night Eugenio Garcia will likely face criminal charges as a result of the crash, which may have been caused by excessive speed.
On Thursday afternoon, pieces of the broken guardrail lay on the riverside, about 20 feet below the road. Shards of glass littered the sandbar, where the car appeared to have landed nose-first before flipping on its roof.
At the Garcia home, the boy’s grandfather said he was told by authorities that his relatives were fine. As soon as he heard about the crash, he drove up from New York, arriving about 10 a.m. Now, as he sat outside in the midday heat, he smoked a cigarette in relief. The boy and his father were not at home.
McNamara said Joshua Garcia is under the care of the Department of Children & Families, which sometimes looks after children whose parents are injured in car crashes.
Belliveau said the boy showed great poise in a difficult situation, and said responders only later realized he had been involved in the crash.
“The really positive thing is he only had minor injuries because he was wearing a seat belt,” McNamara said.
It was hard to believe such a terrible crash had not caused more serious injuries, Belliveau said. In an ironic twist, hurtling so far through the air wound up helping their cause.
“If the car landed in there,” he said of the river, “the car probably would have been swept away.”Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete. Todd Feathers can be reached at email@example.com. Derek J. Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.