FARMINGTON, MO (KTVI) - This July 4th has special meaning for Reese Tiefenauer and the 11-year-old’s family and friends. Reese was trapped underwater in tree roots on the Meramec River July 4th, 2015. The near-drowning survivor has made a remarkable recovery.
“It’s the most terrifying thing I have ever been through,” said family friend Lisa Sweeney. She was with Reese and a group of about 15 people who were floating together near Sullivan last year.
Sweeney said the river swept some of the tubes under a log. Reese, who was wearing a life vest, was stuck in tree roots. Witnesses estimate it took at least 5 minutes to find her, and break her free. A friend in the group started administrating CPR. Reese was unconscious, and was airlifted to St. Louis Children’s Hospital where she was in a coma for 3 days.
“It was really close,” said Reese. “I’m just grateful for everything.”
Reese has made a full recovery. Family and friends marked the anniversary with a surprise celebration for Reese. They lined the Farmington driveway of a family friend with a signs welcoming her to the celebration.
Family and friends gathered for a similar celebration when Reese was released from the hospital.
“I was really happy because I knew she was okay, and she was really excited to be out of the hospital,” said friend Skylar Sweeney.
“When hard times are there, it’s so nice to have friends, family, community and that’s what we were lucky enough to have,” said Brian Tiefenauer, Reese’s father.
“Thankfully we had a great support team and awesome people who were on the float trip with us and saved her life,” said Stephany Tiefnauer, Reese’s mother.
Family and friends hope their story will convince others to never underestimate the power of a river, and to never take life for granted.