At approximately 5:04 PM, on July 1st, 2014, the Newton County Sheriff’s Office received a call from North Arkansas Regional Medical Center’s EMS service about a possible drowning at the Ponca low water bridge on the Buffalo National River.
While deputies, Rangers, First Responders and the ambulance crew were enroute, more information was received that a secondary patient was needing medical attention after trying to rescue the first victim.
Upon arrival, emergency personnel found 10 year old Daniella Renteria, of Independence, Missouri, whose birthday will be tomorrow, July 2nd, sitting on a rock being attended to by First Responders. Her Father, Jose Renteria, aged 37 and also of Independence, Missouri, was lying in the back of a truck, also being attended to by First Responders.
The pair had been swimming upstream of the bridge when they, both weak swimmers, had gotten into water over their heads. The current pulled them deeper and toward the bridge. The two began screaming for help when a bystander, Michael Hogrefe of London, Arkansas jumped in to help.
Hogrefe stated he initially was able to grab the girl and then the father. Once he had both, they were swept under the bridge and Hogrefe tried to grab the bridge. The current was strong enough that in his attempt to hold onto the bridge, some of his fingernails were ripped off. Hogrefe was unable to maintain his hold on the pair and climbed onto the bridge and to the other side.
During this time, the girl’s mother grabbed a stick and was able to get one end to the father. The father was able to hold one end of the stick with one hand and his daughter’s ankle with the other, but the daughter was on the bottom. According to witnesses, the girl was underwater for several minutes.
Hogrefe was able to climb onto the bridge piling and, with the help of the father, pulled Daniella from the water and place her on the bridge. She was not breathing, pulseless and blue in color. Her eyes were open and her pupils were fixed and dilated.
Hogrefe initiated CPR, performing chest compressions and rescue breathing. Daniella began coughing up water and blood and began asking for her mother. Daniella and Jose Renteria were both transported to North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison, by private vehicle.
Newton County Search and Rescue Coordinator Glenn Wheeler stated “I believe if it weren’t for Michael Hogrefe, there would have been one, if not two, drownings on the river today and Daniella would not be celebrating her 11th birthday tomorrow.”
The Newton County Sheriff’s Office, NARMC EMS, the National Park Service, Ponca First Responders and Mt. Sherman First Responders responded to the incident.