SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Just looking at what is left of the Dodge Durango in the deadly car crash on 41st Street and Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls; it is easy to say the Wolf family had a stroke of bad luck.
"I've got some broken ribs; fractured ribs, bruised lung. I've got a nice gash on top of my head," Stephen Wolf said.
Their children, six-year-old Anaya, 22-month-old Samara and three-and-a-half-month-old Silas were all in the second row of the vehicle and had very minor injuries.
"You never think about something like this happening to you," Wolf said.
Ameina Wolf has had two surgeries on a spinal fracture and broken left shoulder. She faces what could be more than a year of recovery.
"She'll never fully recover to a 100 percent," Stephen's mother Laureen Hanson said.
However, the Wolf family wants you to look at the situation a little differently.
"You think about the what ifs. If one little thing could have changed, we would've lost some members. Because everyone was where they were at and what they were doing, five people were saved in that vehicle," Hanson said.
Any small detail could have had a huge impact, and altered what happened. For instance, three children were sitting in the second row. The 22-month-old was behind the driver's seat, the three-month-old was behind the passenger seat. The six-year-old was in the middle. Their five-year-old daughter was not in the vehicle. If five-year-old Mattilynn had been with, she and Anaya would have been in the third row.
"Back in the third row seat and that is non-existent. We're really lucky we didn't have her with us because we wouldn't have our two oldest kids with us," Wolf said.
Wolf said Ameina was not wearing her seatbelt at the time. Just moments before impact, she took it off to turn around and check on their baby. She was thrown from the passenger seat into the second row. Hanson said Ameina landed on top of her oldest daughter, who was sitting in the middle. That helped prevent the small girl from being launched through the windshield.
Brady Mallory: Are you a spiritual person at all?
Wolf: I don't know. It's crazy. I have been. Then I wasn't. Then I, I go to church, if that's what you're asking me. I definitely believe somebody or something was there holding us and making sure we were all okay.
Lieutenant Jerome Miller is amazed nobody was killed and with more than 20 years with Sioux Falls Police, he has seen his fair share of crashes.
"This is going to be one of them I remember for a long time," Miller said.
The fact that the children were strapped tightly in car seats made the difference between life and death. Thanks to the Wolfs, officers plan to take their crumpled up vehicle to child safety seat seminars to show other moms and dads why it is so important to buckle your child in no matter where you are driving to.
"This was one of the ones recently where they came up to us and said, please use this thing in any positive way you can, so others can avoid this tragedy," Miller said.
Nobody wants to get into a car crash and it is not lost on this family that someone died in the crash they were in. That's why when the Wolfs talk about what is left of this Dodge Durango, you will only hear one phrase.
"We're all very lucky," Wolf said. "We're alive and that's all that matters. Yeah, I'm hurting. She's hurting and the kids have gone through some things, but we're all alive. That's all that matters. We can heal," Stephen said.
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