Family of woman seriously injured in I-25 crash meets good Samaritan who helped save her life

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ERIE, Colo. (KDVR) – A northern Colorado teenager is fighting for her life after a horrible car crash on Sunday morning.

Autumn Gifford turned 18 on July 4. Her mother Brandy Gifford said, “I’ve always told her she’s my little firecracker. You know, she has 25 best friends. She was a social butterfly. She is the love and joy of our family and the funny girl, the class clown.”

The day after Autumn’s birthday, her life was turned upside-down. She was a passenger in a car that lost control and rolled over on Interstate 25 near Erie at 6 a.m. on Sunday. The driver was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Brandy said, “I don’t know all the details of that morning. I know he made a horrible decision by putting my daughter in that car. Unfortunately, the decisions made that morning to get into the car with a driver that was impaired is now going to have lasting, permanent consequences. We stress a lot about don’t drink and drive. Don’t get in the car with someone that is impaired. Always wear your seatbelt.”

Autumn is in the intensive care unit and suffered multiple broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.

“She’s still fighting for her life. She’s trying. She’s trying really hard. Her doctors say her injuries are survivable but it’s not going to be easy. She’s not coming home tomorrow or the next week or the week after. It’s going to be months of acute therapy,” Brandy said.

Autumn’s step-father Nikk Attencio said, “We just have a long road ahead of us. She’s always been so strong. What is interesting with her is she is not afraid, she just goes with everything. Right now, the complications with her breathing we can’t get that under control, seems like we’re moving forward, moving forward, right back down again. She doesn’t know where she’s at, why we can’t be there with her at night. We try telling her she’s been in an accident and she doesn’t believe us.”

Autumn was pinned under the car. Her mom was told she died at the scene. But several good Samaritans stopped to help and brought her back to life.

“Autumn died on the scene, and there happened to be some firemen and state patrol and nurse and people who saw the accident and were able to life the car off Autumn. I know they are her guardian angels, and she is here because of them. I could never thank them enough,” Brandy said.

Boulder firefighter Lt. Brian Eckelkamp was on his way to work when he witnessed the crash.

“I tried to assess her vitals. Of course, I didn’t have any pulse, no respirations. So I knew the odds were really against her, but I wasn’t going to give up,” he said.

Eckelkamp got Autumn out from under the car, performed CPR and gave her a second chance at life.

“Miraculously, it surprised me, she took a breath after a couple minutes of CPR. And then I assessed her vitals again and she had a pulses and I checked her pupils and I could see some life coming back in her eyes. So I was very ecstatic. It was a miracle,” he said.

Autumn’s family met Eckelkamp and got to thank him in person.

“I could never thank you enough,” Brandy said.

They believe there was a reason he was there that morning.

“I think she will come home at some point. That’s because of you and the other people who were on scene that night,” Brandy told him. “She’ll be able to thank you some day, I’m praying for that. Would really like to see her walk out of the hospital.”

Eckelkamp said, “I’d love to see her walk out of the hospital. That would be the best gift for me.”

Autumn’s family says she has a long road ahead of her, but they know she has a lot of support.

“We want everyone to keep the prayers and support coming. People have reached out — teachers, principals, coaches, friends, parents, coworkers. The amazing support autumn has and all the people who love her,” Brandy said.

“I really think that Autumn has made a huge impact on people’s lives and they know how wonderful she is,” Nikk said.

A family friend has set up a fund to help with Autumn’s recovery.

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