11-year-old girl saves mom, sister from possible car crash near Alex
Life's door can swing open or closed in just one moment.
The Burns family of Alexandria understands those fragile circumstances all too well.
But the good judgment, perceptiveness and swift actions of 11-year-old Olivia Burns kept their family intact, saving them from what might have been terrible tragedy.
Brittany Burns was driving south on Centennial Drive northwest of Alexandria on the morning of June 11 with her daughters Olivia, 11, and Carly, 9, riding in the backseat. Suddenly, Brittany suffered a seizure and became unconscious.
"It became all blurry where I couldn't focus and then all of a sudden it was just like I was looking down a tunnel," Brittany said. She believed something was wrong with her eye at the time. "That is the last thing that I remember."
With the car traveling about 30 to 40 miles per hour, daughter Olivia quickly maneuvered from the back seat into the front. She grabbed the steering wheel, turned off the ignition and put the vehicle into park, avoiding careening over the drop on the right, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
After the vehicle was safely parked, a good Samaritan in the area helped Olivia call 911.
Deputies from the sheriff's office and North Ambulance personnel assisted the family at the scene.
Brittany was transported to Douglas County Hospital for medical treatment and was later released.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen awarded Olivia the Citizen's Life Saving Award in a ceremony at the sheriff's office Thursday, July 7.
Deputy Jeff Beck was one of the deputies who had responded to the scene.
"Usually when we come into this room and do this type of thing it is a negative setting," Beck said at the ceremony. "Today that is not the case and I am very happy to be part of that."
Beck described the perilous road conditions in the area where Brittany became unconscious.
"If you have been on the road, you will know that there isn't a lot of shoulder," he said. "On the right side of the road where they were traveling was a steep embankment, which the vehicle could have easily exited the roadway and overturned into the ditch area."
Beck recounted how Olivia had calmly told him she held the steering wheel while turning off the car's ignition and then put the vehicle into park.
"At that point, my jaw kind of dropped and I said, 'What did you do?' " he said. "I was very, very impressed by your actions. In my 13-year-career I don't think I have ever heard that happen before...I'm not sure that an adult in the same situation would do the same thing."
Beck credited Olivia's "quick actions" with "directly affect[ing] the outcome in this incident, which resulted in saving several lives, her mom's, her sister's and... anybody else that was on the roadway at that time."
As Wolbersen gave Olivia the award he told her, "You are very brave."