A father was forced into a hellishly cruel Catch-22 when a car carrying his wife and son hurtled into a river.
Just minutes after his wife's car plunged down the bank of New Zealand's Whanganui River, Stacy Horton arrived at the accident scene - and had to decide in seconds whether to save his wife or his child, New Zealand's Dominion Post reports.
"I tried to get down and get him [son Silva], but I couldn't, it was just too deep. And Vanessa was going under," Horton told the newspaper. "I made a call to pull my wife to safety."
When he arrived at the scene, Horton heard his wife's screams for help piercing the darkness. Clambering down the bank, he was met by Robert Palmer, 14, a friend of his son's and a fellow passenger in the car, climbing up the river bank with the Hortons' family dog, which also had escaped the wreckage.
At the river's edge, Horton saw the family's station wagon submerged about 3 feet beneath the water's surface. But his attempts to dive down and retrieve his son failed.
"I looked back, and I could see the taillights, but it was too far, and I couldn't get him," Horton told the newspaper.
"I just had to accept the fact that he had gone. . . . Instead of going down and risking my life as well as my wife and son's, I chose to take V back and sat on the shore praying. It was all I could do."
First responders to the scene also dove in to try to rescue the 13-year-old, but to no avail.
"It was a long shot, but it was worth the risk to try and save him," Whanganui's senior station officer, Gary Wilson, told The Dominion Post.
Horton told the newspaper his wife, his son and his son's friend had taken off in pursuit of teenage vandals who'd destroyed their mailbox. When his wife pulled the car over to the side of the road to speak with the hooligans, the car "kept going," Horton said.
"It's just a freak accident. We can't blame anyone," he told the newspaper. "I've forgiven the kids who were wrecking our letter box."
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