H-SANTA BARBARA

Aug 20, 2012 1:41 PM by Nikki Ibarra

Kelli Groves returns to the Central Coast, thanks rescuers

It's been seven months since Kelli Groves and her two daughters were trapped inside their car, hanging over a bridge, in Buellton.

On Sunday, Groves returned to Santa Barbara to give thanks to the first responders who helped save their lives.

This was the first time Groves and her family saw all of the rescuers together, at the same time.

One by one, Groves thanked the men and women who saved her and her daughters lives.

"They're the ones that get what I went through because they were essentially holding my hand through the whole thing," said Groves, a first grade teacher from San Juan Capistrano.

As a token, the Groves family gave the California Highway Patrol and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department a frame with a thank you letter and pictures, including one from the crash.

"This was just a call that they just happened to be at work that day and got. This disastrous call of what they were about to drive up on," said Groves.

But this trip to Santa Barbara was one, she said, the family needed to make; and one, she called, spiritual.

"That split moment changed their lives, changed my life, changed my families life that we now have this extended family that I couldn't live without. Literally, could not live without," Groves said.

She said she remembers that January day as if it was just yesterday. "The conversations they had, I was privy to. Whatever I was yelling out in my, my panic, they were privy to. They could feel what I felt. I could feel their determination," said Groves.

And with that determination, she said, her family is forever grateful. "This is a family that we're here because of them and I can only hope that they feel just as rewarded as I do," added Groves.

Groves said she and her family have yet to visit the area of the crash in Buellton.

Investigators said Groves' car was hit by a semi-truck driven by Charles Allison, Jr., who died in the crash.

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