High school student received Medal of Honor for heroism during March crash
Steamboat Springs — Katelyn Ibarra will never forget the nasty spring storm that caused slick roads around Steamboat Springs on March 29.
She was riding in the car with her mom, dad and younger brother on their way from the west of town to Mazzola’s to celebrate her parents’ 19th wedding anniversary, when the family came across a collision of a Steamboat Springs Transit bus headed for Craig and a Ford Explorer headed for Steamboat on a sharp turn near Routt County Road 44.
“I did not witness the collision, but looked up to see the scene,” Ibarra wrote in a statement recounting the event.
Ibarra called 911 and then rushed to the crashed bus to help people trapped inside, some of whom were injured.
Her willingness to help that day led to Ibarra being recognized with a meritorious service award from the Girl Scouts of Colorado this April and a nomination for a Medal of Honor from the Girl Scouts of USA, the latter of which Ibarra was awarded Sunday, during a ceremony at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Ibarra, 16, has been a Girl Scout since the second grade and was recently promoted to the rank of ambassador, which is the name describing high school juniors and seniors who are part of the organization.
Ibarra was praised by Girl Scout leaders for the maturity she showed during the accident.
“Katelyn displayed leadership and bravery in what must have been a terrifying time,” said Stephanie A. Foote, Girl Scouts of Colorado President and CEO. “Without hesitation, she risked her own life to help others and displayed courage beyond her actual age.
Ibarra remembers that after her parents stopped the car just past the crash scene, her dad began helping the man trapped inside his Ford Explorer, and after calling 911, Ibarra checked on the Explorer and then headed for the bus.
Because the door was smashed in, she entered the bus through its broken windshield and started assessing people’s injuries. Ibarra had grabbed gauze and some small bandages from an emergency kit in the back of her family’s car, and Ibarra’s mother Amy and another bystander packed snow into Ziploc bags and passed them to Ibarra on the bus.
After 10 minutes, emergency personnel arrived and were able to extricate the man in the Ford Explorer and open an emergency exit on the side of the bus. Four people, including the driver of the Explorer, were transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center for their injuries.
Ibarra’s own account of the experience, and the accounts of her mother and family friend Tracy Shelton, who was one of the bus passengers, led Girl Scouts of the USA to award Ibarra with the Medal of Honor, which recognizes Girl Scouts for “saving life or attempting to have life without risk to the candidate’s own life.”
Shelton said Ibarra needed no direction or instruction but immediately knew to get to work helping others.
“She immediately went over to one of the most severely hurt,” Shelton wrote. “The blood didn’t faze her. She showed no shock. She was just this ‘strength’ among us. She responded in a way that was clearly above her age … I know adults that would not have climbed into that bus, with people screaming and all the blood.”
Ibarra said that even before the crash, she wanted to go into the medical profession, either as a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.
“It’s always intrigued me,” she said.
And if she ever comes across another accident again, Ibarra knows she will be eager to help.
“I’d want someone to help me, if that ever happened to me,” she said.
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