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Utah toddler rescued from wrecked car after 14 hours in river

A fisherman discovered the car on its top in the Spanish Fork River about 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Spanish Fork, about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, police said.

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In this March 7, 2015 photo, officials respond to a report of a car in the Spanish Fork River near the Main Street and the Arrowhead Trail Road junction in Spanish Fork, Utah. An 18-month-old girl survived a car crash in a frigid Utah river after being strapped in a car seat upside-down for some 14 hours before being found by a fisherman, but her 25-year-old mother, Lynn Groesbeck, of Springville, was found dead in the car, police said Sunday.

Sammy Jo Hester, The Daily Herald/AP

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An 18-month-old girl whose mother crashed their car into a Utah river survived hanging upside down in a car seat for some 14 hours in freezing temperatures before a fisherman found her, authorities said.

The mother, 25-year-old Lynn Groesbeck of Springville, was found dead in the car, and her daughter Lily Groesbeck was in critical but stable condition at a Salt Lake City hospital, police said Sunday.

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"She is doing remarkably well considering the circumstance. The doctors have been hopeful so far," the mother's sister, Jill Sanderson, told KSL-TV of Salt Lake City on Sunday. "We would like to express our appreciation to the Spanish Fork rescue team for saving the baby's life."

The fisherman discovered the car on its top in the Spanish Fork River about 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Spanish Fork, about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, police Lt. Matt Johnson said.

Investigators believe the wreck occurred about 10:30 p.m. Friday, when a resident near the accident scene reported hearing a noise, Johnson said. The resident could not find anything unusual when checking the area.

The girl was found hanging upside down above the river that flowed through the car, and the water never reached high enough to touch her, Johnson told the Deseret News newspaper. Her mother was found in the driver's seat.

The car struck a cement barrier on the bridge and careened into the river, investigators said. It landed under the bridge and was difficult to see from the road. Police are not sure why the car left the road, and the Utah Highway Patrol is assisting in the accident investigation.

Family members told police that Lynn Groesbeck left her parents' nearby home in Salem about 10 p.m. Friday and was heading to her home near Provo when the crash occurred.

She was enrolled at Provo College with a goal of becoming a medical assistant, Sanderson said, and had lived in the Provo area her entire life.

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"She was very compassionate and a very loving person and always willing to bend over backwards for her loved ones," Sanderson told KSL. "Her baby was the love of her life. She was an amazing mother."

Three police officers and four firefighters who entered the river to push the car on its side and rescue the girl were treated for hypothermia at a hospital and released.

The temperature dipped to the low- to mid-30s overnight while the girl was trapped in the car.

Police said they wouldn't release further details Sunday unless the girl's condition changes.