Mother who survived ATV ordeal thanks rescuers, admits mistakes
By Susan Weich
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
CREVE COEUR — Trapped under an ATV with her 3-year-old son nearby, Rebecca Riley wondered if she would make it out of the dense woods alive.
She tried to stay calm during the 15-hour ordeal, but sometimes she cried softly.
"I didn't want him to see me cry because I didn't want him to see how upset and how exhausted I was and how badly I was hurt," Riley, 28, of Wright City, said Friday in a news conference at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur, where she remains a patient.
Riley suffered chemical burns from spilled gasoline and bruises, but her son was unharmed in Monday's crash, which happened in the southwestern part of Lincoln County near the Fawn Lake landing strip. She and her son Riley Shive were forced to spend the night in the woods after the ATV they were riding flipped, and she got trapped underneath. Before the vehicle rolled, she was able to push her son to safety
Afterward, the boy rushed to her side, but she told him to stay a few feet away because she didn't know whether the dirt beneath her would shift and trap him too. She had fallen face down into a hole off the trail. A large tree stump was at her head, and the ATV was on her back. Her right arm and leg were pinned.
"I told him that everything was going to be all right, somebody would come find us and mommy's going to try to get out of here the best way she knows how," Riley said. "I tried to keep him calm. But it was hard, the whole night it was extremely hard."
Riley tried to dig her way out, and she yelled repeatedly for help.
"When my breath started giving out, I had to stop and just rest myself for a while because I knew I needed to save my breath," she said. "I knew there might not be anybody coming to look for us for a while. I had to be there for Riley."
She acknowledged Friday that she had made several mistakes that could have cost the lives of her and her son.
The two were not wearing helmets, something she said will never happen again. Helmets are not required when riding on private property
She had driven on a trail she was not familiar with and she got lost. She hadn't told anyone where she was going, and she had forgotten her cell phone.
The two had gone for a ride about 5:30 p.m. Both were wearing just T-shirts and pants in the unseasonably warm 70-degree weather. Just before 7 p.m., her ATV got stuck, and the accident happened as she was trying to free the four-wheeler.
As the hours passed, the boy complained about bugs crawling on him, and he worried about snakes. He said he was hungry and thirsty. Riley tossed dirt on him to try to keep him warm. She let him sleep for short periods but then would call his name to make sure that he would wake back up, that he wasn't getting hypothermia.
"He was so brave; we calmed each other," she said.
The next morning, Riley tried again to free herself and accidentally pulled the gas line on the ATV, mistaking it for a tree root. The gasoline spilled on her, causing burns, and she was overcome by the fumes.
"I think I passed out," she said. "All I remember is them pulling me up into the helicopter."
She said the experience had taught her that life is precious, and she said she feels lucky to be alive. She is being treated for an injury to her kidney but is expected to make a full recovery. Her son seemed no worse for the experience as he acted like a typical 3-year-old, sticking his tongue out at the TV cameras, pulling his T-shirt over his head and grabbing at microphones.
Riley expressed her thanks to all their rescuers.
"I love everybody for putting their time and effort into looking for us, just finding us, making sure we were OK," Riley said. "I just want everyone to know, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart."
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