Georgia sorority sisters hailed as heroes after rescuing mother, kids from sinking car

ByShafiq Najib, Janice McDonald, Nora Hanna, Stacy Rollins, and Eva Pilgrim ABCNews logo
Thursday, April 11, 2024
Georgia sorority sisters rescue mother, kids from sinking car
A group of University of Georgia sorority sisters are being hailed as heroes after a rescue of a mother and her kids from a car sinking in water.

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Five sorority sisters from the University of Georgia have been hailed as heroes after rescuing a mother and her two young sons from their sinking vehicle after it fell into a creek.

Molly McCollum, Jane McArdle, Eleanor Cart, Clarke Jones and Kaitlyn lannace were leaving their campus in Athens to celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend in Savannah when the event occurred on March 15.

On their way to Savannah, the group took a long detour to stop for lunch, prompting them to reroute through a rural area later when they hit the road again.

It wasn't long before the group ran into something unusual.

"In our peripheral vision, we just see this ... spark of white, a little cloud of dust and kind of like a big old crash," McCollum recalled during an interview with "Good Morning America" which aired on Wednesday. "And I'm just like, 'Am I imagining that?' And Clarke was like, 'Yeah, yeah, let's go check that out.'"

"That's when we decided to pull over, and that's when we saw the car in the water," Jones said.

Cori Craft had been driving through Sardis, Georgia, with her two sons sitting in the backseat when she lost control of her SUV. In the blink of an eye, Craft's car veered off the road and into a creek, where it began sinking rapidly.

"I was thinking, I'm like, 'I don't even know where my phone is. I don't have my glasses. I don't know how I'm going to call for help,'" Craft said. "And then I just heard them over on the bank, and they shouted [asking] if I was OK. And I'm like, 'No, my kids are in the car.'"

Five sorority girls from the University of Georgia have been hailed as heroes after saving the lives of a mother and her two young kids.
Five sorority girls from the University of Georgia have been hailed as heroes after saving the lives of a mother and her two young kids.
ABC News

McCollum told ABC News' Eva Pilgrim she saw Craft getting out of the vehicle through "the broken sunroof" and "screaming" for help.

"'There's two more kids in the car,' like, 'My two kids are in the car,'" McCollum recalled Craft yelling at the time.

Added McArdle, "I think the mom was so frantic that, like, I don't know... I feel like I didn't have a choice but to help."

The students sprang into action, immediately calling 911 and jumping into the cold water to rescue the family.

Craft said the women crawled on top of her vehicle and helped her open the door. They managed to get Craft's older son out quickly, but Craft's 4-year-old was still trapped underwater and buckled into his car seat.

"Time is ticking. It had been like 4 to 5 minutes ... it was just, like, every second mattered," McCollum recalled of the scary moment.

Eventually, the group was able to pull the 4-year-old to safety.

"We all together, like, just pulled him out of the vehicle and then, yeah, [he] was like fully unconscious and it was terrifying," said McCollum.

lannace said the boy's "lips [were] completely blue, like his eyes were closed. He was not breathing."

Fortunately, Jones had previously worked as a lifeguard and began performing CPR on the child.

"I was a lifeguard in high school for one summer, so I just remembered it from then," Jones said. "We had no clue if he was going to survive at all. And so I'm like, 'This is the one thing I know how to do that I can help. And so I'm just going to give it my best try.'"

While the event was unfolding, Craft said she feared she was going to lose her younger son. However, the group and the family were quickly filled with joy after Craft's son began breathing again.

"And at that point, like, all of us were crying," McCollum recalled. "And it was like, 'No way that just happened.'"

The students' heroic acts have since been recognized by the Sardis Police Department and the Burke County Sheriff's Department, which shared a post on its Facebook page, thanking the women for their actions.

During the interview with "GMA3," Sheriff Alfonzo Williams surprised the sorority sisters with badges of honor.

"We were so moved by it. We think you should be a part of us," Williams told the students. "We wanted to recognize your heroic acts, and we're gonna make you honorary Burke County deputies today. Thank you all for doing what you did."

Reflecting on the group's heroic efforts, McArdle said she and her sorority sisters were simply at the "right place at the right time."

Added McCollum, "It's also ... just made me rethink, like, day to day, it's more about just like [having] a mindset of altruism and just like searching for [anyone] who needs help in the world around you."