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Family of child who fell out of moving vehicle on Valley freeway speaks out

Posted at 10:40 PM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-11 18:23:01-04

BUCKEYE, AZ — It is a miraculous story of recovery. An eight-year-old girl fell out of a van and onto I-10 going 75 miles per hour.

Roughly a month later, Saleen Gutierrez is preparing to leave Phoenix Children's after multiple head surgeries.

"It's a crazy, bizarre accident," said Ana Caceres, Saleen's mother.

On April 8, Saleen Gutierrez and her grandparents were almost to their Avondale homes after a trip to California.

Gutierrez's grandparents told DPS troopers they felt a gust of wind in their old 1999 van. When they looked back, they saw their granddaughter was no longer sleeping in the back seat.

"Somehow [she fell out], they don't know if she was asleep and she leaned to grab the door to kind of get up. She doesn't remember a thing," said Caceres.

Saleen fell out while the van was traveling 75 miles per hour, according to DPS.

"I was like, 'What do you mean she fell out?'" said Caceres, recalling her conversation with her dad right after it happened. "My first thought was, did she get run over? And when he told me he didn't know, that really affected me in a lot of ways."

Saleen, or Saysay as loved ones call her, was unconscious in the middle of I-10 near Miller Road in Buckeye.

A good Samaritan on his way into work drove past the girl. He did a double take, quickly stopped, then reversed, stopped traffic, and called 911. A helicopter was on the scene a few minutes later, evacuating Saleen to Phoenix Children's with her life hanging in the balance.

"It's scary for them to tell you that your daughter has 73 hours," said Joseph Gutierrez, Saleen's father.

"There was a blood clot in her brain. They had to go in there and drain it out," said Caceres.

Saleen was in the ICU for one week.

"When she woke up she remembered us," said Caceres.

"What was that moment like for you?" asked ABC15 reporter Zach Crenshaw.

"It was amazing because I knew I still had her there," Caceres said.

Saleen has improved every day. Doctors told the family it is one of the fastest recoveries they have ever witnessed based on her injuries.

"She is her sassy little self," Caceres said.

The eight-year-old still has months of therapy and rehabilitation ahead. Saleen's parents have many more trips and bills to pay. But ahead of Mother's Day, Caceres says it is the best gift she could ever imagine.

"I am bringing my baby home. God gave me a second chance because he let me keep her, and I'm thankful for that," she said.

The family is hoping to raise funds to pay for costs associated with Saleen's injury and their ongoing care; you can donate here.