Police officer father rushes to be by side of teen daughter after crash leaves her trapped in car for 45 minutes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville teen is out of the hospital and recovering after a serious car crash just weeks ago.

Firefighters had to use the jaws of life to rescue Caitlyn Sowell, 17, from the mangled wreckage.

Her father, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office detective who was working just blocks away, came to the scene of the crash and helped keep her calm during the rush to save her.

“It just I felt like a movie. Like it felt like there’s no way this actually just happened,” Sowell said.

The crash happened on July 31 on University Boulevard at St. Augustine Road in the Lakewood neighborhood.

Videos and photos taken at the scene by her father that night showed that Sowell was awake, alert and remarkably calm as firefighters tried to get to her inside the car.

She was riding with a friend on a rainy evening heading to the movies when his car hydroplaned and collied with a tree on Caitlyn’s side.

“I just looked down and I’m just like, oh God, like this isn’t, this is, I’m not going to be able to like, just walk away from this. And I looked down on my leg is just completely just like vertical, just completely over there,” she said.

Her friend got out with minor injuries and someone called 911 while she called her parents. Caitlyn is a city lifeguard and said her training kept her calm.

“It was a nightmare is like an understatement,” said mother Carrie Sowell, a high school teacher. “It’s the most agonizing experience to show up to the scene of an accident that your child is in.”

Father Mark Sowell arrived shortly after the crash.

“As soon as I went up, and I lifted up the airbag, and she said, ‘Hey, Dad. Hey, buddy,’ you know, and at that point, the firemen are arriving, people are starting to gather,” he said. “And what’s interesting is nobody knew. They just see a cop, you know, I’m just a cop in uniform that’s there for the crash, you know, they have no idea. This is my daughter.”

With the jaws of life and incredible precision, Jacksonville firefighters carefully cut the car out from around Caitlyn and 45 minutes later she was free.

While it unfolded, Caitlyn’s family rooted her on nearby as a crowd gathered hoping for a positive outcome.

On Monday, Caitlyn was doing much better. After 10 days in the hospital and surgery for a broken femur and ankle, she’s back home.

Caitlyn said she feels amazingly fortunate.

“God really spared my life,” she said. “Like, I should not be here right now.”

While some could be angry this happened to them, Caitlyn is grateful and thankful for her family and friends, appreciative of the first responders and the medical teams that never left her side.

“So this girl Caitlyn marvels me every day, you know, with her strength, with her ability to find a way through just absolute pain. And I don’t think she knows how strong she is,” he mother said.

Caitlyn hopes to be back in school by the end of the month and someday she wants to use her experience for good in the medical field.

“I will be going to school. In no time I’ll be skating around popping wheelies,” Caitlyn said.

Caitlyn’s father said he asked her what she needed when she was trapped and she responded that she wanted a Publix sub. After hearing her story, staff from her local store dropped off subs and balloons at her hospital room.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.