As Mike Spicer laid 8-month-old Ryder Lockwood on the passenger seat of his truck to start CPR, he said a prayer to God.
Minutes before, Ryder had been in the back seat of an overturned vehicle that struck a tree off the side of Highway 198 in Visalia. Spicer, a retired California Highway Patrol officer and head of security for Adventist Health in the central San Joaquin Valley, spotted the wreck Saturday morning, pulled over, and was handed a dead baby.
The 61-year-old Hanford man had seen many dead bodies over 27 years in the CHP. He was sure the infant was gone. He laid Ryder in his truck and started light compressions on the baby’s chest.
Spicer was listening to a sermon about men who are filled with the “Holy Spirit” when he came upon the crash. The sermon continued as he worked to save Ryder’s life.
Within a minute, Ryder started to moan and open his eyes. Then Ryder cried – music to Spicer’s ears. Before Ryder was taken to the hospital, he was smiling and laughing.
Doctors told the family Ryder is healthy and had no complications from the accident. The others involved in the crash – Ryder’s mother, Brittany Lockwood, and two young siblings – only received some scratches and bruises.
“That was unbelievable and a miracle,” Spicer says.
Even more miraculous: Ryder died once before Spicer arrived on the scene.
Tony Calvillo of Visalia got to the crash first. He saw the car veer off the right side of the highway and called 911.
He came upon a chaotic scene: a young Visalia family desperately in need of aid.
Lockwood’s family says she helped one of her children, 5-year-old Preston, crawl out of the car, and was working to free daughter Aubreanna, 2, from a car seat.
Calvillo says he shattered one of the windows with a knife he had just purchased that morning to pull Ryder from the car.
Thirty seconds later, Ryder stopped crying and turned cold and stiff.
Calvillo knew what to do. The 42-year-old volunteers as a pilot for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team. There was no doubt in his mind that Ryder was dead.
With the baby’s back against Calvillo’s left forearm, the Visalia man lowered Ryder to the ground. Calvillo used his right hand to start light compressions on the baby’s chest in an effort to revive him.
Calvillo has a daughter about the same age as Ryder. She was all Calvillo saw as he looked at the motionless baby boy before him.
After about 30 seconds of compressions, Ryder came back to life. Holding the infant, Calvillo walked toward Spicer, who had just arrived – and the baby died again.
While Spicer took over, Calvillo went back to the wreck, concerned the car could catch fire with people still inside. A man in his 20s, whose identity is not known, had also arrived. Together, Calvillo and that man helped pull Lockwood out and grabbed 2-year-old Aubreanna, who was lying inside.
Rescuers and family walked back up to the highway, hand-in-hand, to find Spicer still performing CPR. Lockwood asked the men over and over if her baby boy was dead.
Calvillo and Spicer looked at each other. They didn’t know what to say.
Then, they heard Ryder cry.
His screams worried his mother, but the men knew the baby’s wail was a very good sign. They looked at each other again, this time with relief.
“We were just in tears,” Calvillo says. “We just couldn’t believe what we were seeing.”
Calvillo – who works as a global sourcing manager for a produce company in Reedley and as a real estate agent in Visalia – is also an ordained reverend.
“Obviously, I have a lot of faith,” he says, “but it’s one thing to read about Christ and another thing to actually be part of – again, no doubt – a miracle.”
Events leading up to the accident also amazed Calvillo.
He and his 8-year-old son, Jared, were headed to a fishing derby in Visalia (they found out later that the derby isn’t until January). They were running late after stopping by a sporting goods store to buy fishing gear and a knife.
“The funny part is I don’t really carry or use a knife, but for some reason I just felt like I needed to have a knife, and that was what I used to break the window.”
Calvillo rarely ever runs late. He believes God put him – and everyone else who responded to the crash – there at the “right time, at the right place.”
Ryder’s grandmother, Jody Perryman of Tulare, shared her thanks for what the men did.
“It’s hard to put into words how thankful we all are that so many strangers stopped to help,” Perryman says, also speaking on behalf of her son and daughter-in-law, who were still too overwhelmed by the car accident to be interviewed. “We will be forever grateful to Mike and Tony for saving Ryder’s life and helping the rest of my family.”
The experience has made those involved even more thankful for family – and life.
“With Thanksgiving coming, it’s just a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on where we are all at and appreciate what we all have,” Calvillo says. “From one minute to another, you can be gone, so be thankful every day to God for the gift of life.”