ST. MARYS — Jackie Wilker says she has no doubts in her mind her sons can handle whatever situation pops up after they pulled her from a submerged car following a collision with a deer last week.
Wilker, along with her sons Ryan, 18, a freshman at the University of Dayton, Nathan, 15, a freshman at Memorial High School, and Austin, 12, a seventh-grade student at Holy Rosary, were driving along U.S. 127 in Mercer County on Saturday when another vehicle struck a deer — which then was tossed into Wilker’s vehicle. The impact caused Wilker’s vehicle to travel off the side of the road, ultimately coming to rest in a pond. That’s when the Wilker brothers sprang into action to save their mother’s life.
“All I knew is that something hit us — it sounded like an explosion,” Nathan told The Evening Leader. “I looked up, tried to grab the wheel but I couldn’t get to it. We veered off the road and into a pond.”
Once the car entered the pond, Nathan opened his door and exited the vehicle. Shortly after, Austin and Ryan exited the vehicle.
“I took Austin to shore and went back with Ryan to help our mom,” Nathan said. “I managed to get through the windshield and unbuckle her and Ryan pulled her out and we pushed her to shore where bystanders helped.”
Ryan, who has taken CPR and first-aid classes, said he realized the seriousness of the situation right away.
“My adrenalin was pumping,” Nathan said. “I just knew I had to do something and I just did it.”
After the ordeal was over, Nathan said he reflected on what had just transpired.
“I thought how lucky we were considering the circumstances,” Nathan said. “I’m just glad we have her here because without her, I don’t know what we would do.”
Nathan admitted he never hesitated going back into the water after his mother.
“She’s my mom,” Nathan said. “I would do whatever I could to save her and I would do whatever I could for my family.”
Austin, who was sitting in the front passenger seat at the time of the crash, got glass from the windshield in his eyes. After he made it to shore, Austin flagged down help.
“There were a lot of bystanders there helping get blankets,” Austin said.
“I was just thinking what could have happened. She could have been dead, we all could have been dead.”
When Austin saw his brothers bring his mother onto land with only a gash on her head, he immediately broke out into joy.
“I was like, ‘Thank the Lord she’s out,’” Austin said, shrugging off his actions. “I think any kid would do that for his mom. It feels good to have them safe and sound at home.”
Wilker said the experience has made her family stronger.
“I have good kids here — great kids,” she said. “We always count our blessings and that God must have been watching over us at that time ... It definitely makes use stronger — it would make anyone stronger. As a parent, you could see them working together in a state of crisis and for me, I know they would be very capable of handling themselves when they get older.”
To mark their bravery, St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan presented Wilker’s sons with a proclamation on Thursday.