Accident Witness: “those seven minutes were everything”

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Mobile, Ala. (WALA) One of the first people to arrive on the scene after the deadly “Dolly Parton” bridge accident is talking about the tense moments on the bridge.

Emily Arendall and her family were returning home from a trip to Auburn when they spotted a little girl in the middle of the interstate, just before the highest point of the bridge.

“Her face was completely blank. She had no emotion on her face whatsoever. She was not crying…I mean she was in complete shock,” said Arendall. “I just saw a little girl sitting in the middle of the debris with everything around her she had her knees to her chest and I just screamed there is a baby! there is a baby!” she said.

The family spotted 42 year-old Debra Hartley on the ground near the child. She wasn’t moving. Authorities later revealed she did not survive the crash. Authorities have not released if Hartley is related to the child.

” I immediately thought about my 3 year-old and how horrible it was that her momma, or whoever that was lying next to her just couldn’t help her, and as a mother that is the first thing you do is protect your babies. And there was nobody there to protect her.. we immediately went over to her and had her stand up and pick her up and held her like a baby and just told her she was going to be okay and we are going to take care of her,” said Arendall.

Arendall says two 18 wheelers were behind their car. She believes a change of plans earlier in the day made it so she was at the right place at the right time.

” My mom said ‘oh I forgot my purse’ and you know the house is full of people we had been at a funeral and so everyone was visiting in the house. I thought if we send my mom back in the house it’s going to take forever. So my dad said I’ll run in and get it. So dad ran in and got it probably took him between 5 and 10 minutes, probably 7 but I feel like now that I look back on it… those seven minutes were everything,” said Arendall.

Authorities have not released where the child was taken after the accident or who her family is.

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