Saratoga County

Survivor of Wilton crash thanks rescuers who saved her life

A Ballston Spa woman who narrowly escaped death last month in a car accident that killed her friend,

A Ballston Spa woman who narrowly escaped death last month in a car accident that killed her friend, on Friday thanked the emergency personnel, firefighters and troopers who saved her.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank all of you for saving my life,” said Michelle Cottrell. “You are my guardian angels.”

Despite suffering a broken neck, broken arm, and other injuries in the crash on Route 9 in Wilton, the young woman only spent five days in the hospital.

Cottrell, 21, and her parents hosted a surprise pizza and wing party at the Wilton Emergency Squad building on Jones Road that was attended by members of the Wilton Fire Department, Wilton Emergency Squad and state police who helped her Feb. 25.

Cottrell was a passenger that night in a 2003 Ford Contour operated by her friend Crystal L. Harrington, 21, of South Glens Falls. The car went out of control just south of Sergio’s Restaurant on the slippery Route 9, hit a snowbank, hit a utility pole, and ended up on its top.

Harrington, the mother of two small children, was under the car and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said neither woman was wearing her seat belt.

It took firefighters an hour to extricate Cottrell, who was partially ejected from the car and pinned.

“The car was on its roof in a snow bank with the power pole over the car and live wires down around it,” said Trooper Anthony Dyer. He praised the emergency personnel for the excellent job they did in removing her from the demolished car.

Jared Gilston, a paramedic with the Wilton Emergency Squad, said he and three other squad members did what they could for Cottrell as she was being extricated.

Once she was free, the rescue workers used manual stabilization and a collar to keep her spine in line. They then placed her on a backboard for the ambulance run to Saratoga Hospital. She was later taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital by ambulance because the weather prevented an emergency helicopter from flying.

The other emergency squad members working on Cottrell were Vince Santilli, Chrissy Mariani and Corey Helwig.

Wilton firefighter Mike Fish was on Route 9 that night going to the store for medicine for his daughter. He came upon the accident soon after it happened.

Cottrell said she can remember Fish digging her head out of the snow and talking to her.

“You were screaming for help,” Fish said to Cottrell. She replied, “I just remember I was cold and stuck.”

Cottrell’s mother, JoAnn Zelker of Galway, said emergency personnel and police very seldom get thanked for the good things they do.

“They don’t get the thank you they deserve,” Zelker said. “A life was lost but a life was saved. I would give them the world if I could.”

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