As the name implies, a first responder is the initial aid at the scene of an emergency. They arrive in the aftermath of a fire, natural disaster or accident and probably feel a bit of trepidation, unsure as to what they’ll find. And that was likely the case one tragic day in the northwestern United States in 2017.
On Sunday, June 18 that year, an emergency responder answered the call of duty and rushed to a car crash on Idaho’s Highway 30. But while such a call-out wasn’t out of the ordinary for this line of work, some of the events that followed the accident were rather unusual.
Amid the twisted metal and chaos at the scene, it all became too much for the first responder. So much so, in fact, that a pang in his heart quickly escalated to full-on cardiac arrest. As a result, the rescuer himself soon became the one who needed help to save his own life.
Sunday, June 18, 2017, was Father’s Day; and like many other families, the Neibaurs spent it together. Mom Bobbi, father Eric and their children Eric, 15, and Lauren, 13, had been camping all weekend in Big Springs, Idaho.
At the end of their outdoor escape, they loaded up their vehicles and headed home to Pocatello – a 140-mile drive from Big Springs. And while the parents piled into their car, 15-year-old Eric drove himself and his sister in a 1999 Chevy pickup truck.
Now it may seem uncommon to have a 15-year-old behind the wheel, but it’s perfectly legal in Idaho. Yes, state law allows teens of this age to obtain a license after they’ve taken a driver’s education course and logged 50 hours of supervised driving practice.
But even though their son had, indeed, overcome all these hurdles and earned his license, Bobbi and Eric still kept on eye on him in their rearview mirror that Sunday afternoon. And it was through these glances that the couple first realized that something had gone terribly wrong on the drive.
You see, the Neibaurs could no longer see Eric’s red pickup following them – the vehicle carrying their two children had disappeared. The older Eric paused to call other relatives who were driving behind the kids, and they informed him that they had witnessed the unthinkable.
Having been traveling westbound, Eric’s pickup crossed into the eastbound lanes of Idaho’s Highway 30 at around 12:45 p.m. And the teenager’s mistake had instant, irreversible repercussions. You see, he and his sister crashed head-on into a 2011 Chevy Suburban traveling in the opposite direction.
And as Idaho state police had to investigate before they confirmed their theories, they did not immediately reveal the cause of the accident. However, images of the crash show just how horrific it was. Eric’s pickup was hardly recognizable as a vehicle, in fact, appearing instead to be a heap of junk metal and broken glass.
Even worse, though, was the fact that other family members were quickly on the scene, and they witnessed first-hand what had happened to the teens. Within the wreckage of their son’s truck, the Neibaurs found their children trapped inside. They even tried to remove Eric and Lauren from the mangled metal.
Their efforts would be in vain, though, and both Lauren and Eric perished that day at the scene of the crash. The driver of the Suburban they hit, 70-year-old Jay Lanningham, also died. However, Lanningham’s passenger – a girl whose identity was not disclosed to the press – survived after being airlifted to a local hospital.
This scene of horrific trauma, grief and loss is what the first responder had to walk into. And, in this instance, he was not the first to arrive at the accident: the Neibaurs had already found their children’s lifeless bodies inside the crushed vehicle.
Needless to say, then, even a steely first responder couldn’t help but feel the devastation of what was happening around him. And as he completed the tragic task of removing Lauren and Eric from their truck, the rescuer’s heart stopped beating – in fact, he’d gone into cardiac arrest.
Fortunately for the first responder, though, the rest of the emergency team at the scene were able to save him. Yes, thankfully they were able to restore the rescuer’s heartbeat with a portable defibrillator. The medics then took him to a hospital in Pocatello, where he spent three nights before being released.
Later, a local sheriff named Lorin Nielsen told the Idaho State Journal that given the crash site it wasn’t surprising that the first responder went into cardiac arrest. After all, the accident was unlike anything they had ever seen. “The damage was so horrific and there weren’t any skid marks,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen then added that the tragedy of losing two teens tugged at the heartstrings of the emergency response team as well – many of whom had families of their own. “All of us have seen death before,” he said. “But when we have kids that are about the same age it really hits home a bit more than anything else does.”
Like the first responder, the community at large responded to the accident with complete and utter shock. Indeed, locals were unable to comprehend the fact that both siblings had died. And to honor the young lives lost, more than 500 people attended a candlelit vigil four days after the crash.
Meanwhile, although the family had an incredible loss to grieve, they found solace in the two siblings’ bond, which they’d had until the very end. “Everybody can say that they are friends [and] that they loved their siblings… but those two were unique. They had a magical connection,” their mom Bobbi told the Idaho State Journal.
Furthermore, the Neibaurs’ cousin, Isaac Ross, told Local News 8 that, in a way, the tragic loss of Eric and Lauren was a comfort, as according to him, the two wouldn’t have survived apart. “If they both didn’t go, Eric wouldn’t be able to function without Lauren, and Lauren wouldn’t be able to function without Eric,” he said. “Lord had mercy on them.”