H-SANTA BARBARA

Aug 21, 2012 1:00 AM by Nikki Ibarra

Kelli Groves talks life after Buellton crash

Kelli Groves and her family thanked the rescuers in Santa Barbara on Sunday for saving her and her two daughters' lives, as they were trapped inside their car, hanging over a bridge, just south of Buellton.

Back in January, an 18-wheeler crashed into their car, killing the big rig driver, 48 year-old Charles Allison Jr. Investigators said Allison had methamphetamine in his body at the time of the crash.

In an interview with KSBY's Nikki Ibarra, Kelli Groves said life is finally starting to get back to normal.

"You do whatever you have to do to make sure your kids are safe," said Groves, a first grade teacher from San Juan Capistrano.

Groves has received hundreds of letters from moms all over the country, asking her how she did. "My response is you would have done what I had done," she added.

On this day, she said, her family remembered how far they've come. "There's been so many phases of recovery. The initial is just survival," she said.

For about five months after the crash, Groves' family had to live at her mother's house because they needed all the help they could get. Groves and her then 10 year-old daughter, Sage, needed the most care, but the aftermath affected the entire family.

"My husband having panic attacks because the enormous weight that was on his shoulders. In that split second, he couldn't cope with it," she said.

But getting to this day, healthy and reunited with those who saved her, reminded Groves of that cold January afternoon.

It's one video image, caught by KSBY photojournalist, Jason Orr, Groves said, she will never forget. "It kind of hits me right in the gut, and it's this look of terror, desperation. Somebody help me. This is out of my hands," she added.

Groves was on her way to San Luis Obispo with her two daughters, Sage and Mylo, when the crash happened. Sage was doing a school project and decided to focus on Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.

Groves hopes to start teaching in a couple of weeks, pending doctors orders.

Caltrans said they will start repairing the bridge at the end of September.

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