Diego Quintanilla’s Story
August 12, 2004 – September 9, 2006
On September 9th 2006 we were taking our son Ivan “Diego” Quintanilla camping for his very first time. He had just turned 2 the month before and we thought it was time to see if he could survive a night out camping. It was just Diego, my husband and our daughter Tawni who was 8 at that time.
We were so excited to take him fishing to see what he would do when he caught his first fish, if he’d scream like a little girl or touch it with awe.
None of us had been up to Mirror Lake before and it is a beautiful place for camping with the family. We took the hour and a half drive from our home in West Jordan. My car was in the shop and so I had a rental car a little Ford Focus, and my husband at the time brought his truck so we could fit everything.
When we finally arrived and picked the perfect location for our family. We pulled out a couple of chairs to sit on and gathered up the fee to pay for the camping spot. My husband went to the trunk to get the Cheetos then he went to the restroom. Tawni and Diego were standing next to the chairs when I got in the car to fill out the form to go place in the payment box.
I checked my mirrors and then started to back out “MOM,” Tawni yelled at the top of her little 8 year old lungs. My stomach dropped. I froze. Then opened the car door and saw what I ran over. I saw my 2 year old son lying lifelessly on the ground.
Tears flowed out of my eyes as I ran to him, leaves crumbled to my left as I saw my husband running from the bathroom, he swiftly scooped up Diego holding him tightly. We hurried to the car as I drove around the cove to the forest ranger. I ran to the ranger from the car. She looked at me with a perplexed look on her face. “Help us!” I screeched.
My husband laid Diego on his back, on the hard cold autumn road. I started CPR, I felt the forest ranger next to me. “Chest compressions; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, breathe,” I whispered, as she pressed quickly I blew into his mouth my eyes squeezed tight, I hoped to feel him breathe, cough, react somehow. Looking down at him I saw nothing, no reaction, “again!” I pleaded. Eyes staring all around me as we continued, “I’m a nurse,” said a quiet voice from the back of the crowd. “I can’t give up and let someone else try to save Diego,” I thought.
I heard voices blurry and distant. I couldn’t make out a word anyone was saying, I just heard faded mumbling as I stared down at my son laying there unresponsive. I looked around and some strange lady helped me up from the ground. “Did I hear life flight?” I asked the forest ranger. “Yes, they just called over the radio that they are sending in a chopper,” she said.
Somehow, I dragged myself away, starring in the sky, tears pouring down my face, “Where the hell is that damn chopper?” I said out loud. An hour and 15 minutes later I heard the rushing of the trees as the helicopter came into view. Before I even had a chance to say anything, EMS were looking at me, and I just found myself nodding not knowing what was even being said. I felt like I was in a daze. The ranger grabbed my hand, saying “I’ll drive you down to the bottom of the canyon.”
Silence, as we drove no one was talking, no one dared. I looked at my hands they were trembling, shaking. I’d never seen anything like it before. I watched the trees all bland, no color, and no fascination, blend into each other. Even the wonderful pine smell was gone, nothing was left, not even the fresh inviting smell that’s was usually in the air. The engine revving was all that I could hear as we drove down the mountain.
As I was driving to the hospital after I dropped off the ranger. I knew that I was already in hysterics from the events that happened. I felt disbelief, anger, hurt, and pain, I prayed and hoped for the best. I called my family on the way letting them know that there had been a horrible accident and that they all needed to get to the hospital immediately.
We arrived at the hospital, and I gathered myself the best I could. Slowly we walked in I was scared and nervous. I glanced up from the ground that I was so wholeheartedly staring at like it was what weirdly was holding me up. I saw my father and his girlfriend sitting anxiously in the waiting room. Worried looks on their faces. My hands and knees trembled as I walked to the nurses’ station and let them know why I was there. I felt the kindness in their hearts and soft spoken voices as they led us to the family room to wait for the doctor while they were working on Diego.
My stomach twisted and turned in knots with fear, my knuckles turned white as I wrung them together over and over again anxiously. The door opened I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but stare as the doctor came in and shut the door. “Didn’t make it,” was all that I heard even though he was still talking and looking at me. “No!” I screamed “No, how can that be?” My knees wobbled, they felt like Jello, my body went limp. I tried to feel parts of my body, but it was all numb, motionless and numb. I was frozen right where I stood. With swollen eyes staring at everyone, trying to see, but couldn’t it was all just too blurry.
When everyone had finally arrived; I looked around the hospital room, all I could hear was mumbles, distant talking from nurses down the hall, smells of cleaner, and medicine. I was hurt, we all were, the love I felt for my son was so strong, “Why wasn’t it enough? Why, is this happening, why couldn’t they help him, why?” Was all that I could say over and over again in my head.
We took pictures, got a lock of his hair, and some ceramic molds of his hands. The nurse came in looked at me, “Where would you like him to go?” she asked as she handed me a piece of paper. I knew I didn’t need the paper she was handing me. I knew there was only one place he could go, I told them the place where we took my grandpa when he died. Looking at the nurse I said “Sundburg Olpin in Orem.” Knowing it was time, we took one last family photo we could cherish forever. We gathered all that we could take home, including the blanket he was wrapped in, I told him goodbye.
The agony I saw in my daughter and husbands’ eyes, it just crushed my heart to no repair, knowing that we’ll never fully come back from this again. I walked over to the bed looked Diego in the eyes “I love you my beautiful baby boy,” I softly cried then kissed him on the cheek. “Goodbye Diego, I love you and will see you once again someday.”
Written by: Diego’s mother