110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Jen Horton
posted Mar 28, 2012 - 6:48:04pm
Eighteen-year-old Ashley Britton was sitting on her bed on a Saturday night when she heard her mother scream "Call 911!"
Ashley dialed, then ran out the family's front door to see what had caused her mother's alarm.
Rachel Russell and Juliana Hobbs, both 14, had been hit by a car on South Spring Garden Avenue, two doors from the Britton home.
"I bolted out the door," Ashley said. "Juliana was lying face down on the ground, and there was blood all around her. It looked like a CSI crime scene."
Ashley, a senior at DeLand High School, isn't comfortable being called a hero, but the actions she took that night, March 17, fit the definition. Juliana died, but not before Ashley courageously tried to save her life.
The recording of the 911 call Ashley made tells the story. Rachel, who was also injured, can be heard screaming in the background. Ashley describes Juliana's situation to the emergency operator.
The operator asks, "Does someone there want to do CPR? I can tell you how to do CPR to make her breathe again."
Ashley hesitates for less than a second. "OK; how do you do CPR?" she responds.
Ashley said she had looked around, to see if anyone else was going to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Juliana. It was hard to hear the operator in the chaos, she said. When she realized nobody else was going to start CPR, Ashley said, she got calm. Her voice changes in the 911 recording, from panicky to focused and determined.
"I was just like, OK, I'll just have to do this," she recalled. "I was going on pure adrenaline."
The operator gives step-by-step instructions. Ashley blows breath into Juliana's mouth. She places her hand on Juliana's chest and joyfully tells the operator, "She has a heartbeat. … I feel it."
The call lasts less than five minutes. When emergency responders take over from Ashley, Ashley still has hope that Juliana will live.
"Later that night, I heard that she wasn't going to make it," Ashley said.
She paused for a moment and blinked away tears. Ashley didn't know Juliana, but said she was devastated to hear the younger girl died.
"Just that she didn't make it," Ashley said.
She said if she had it to do all over again, even knowing what she knows now, she would still try to help.
Ashley's mother, Elizabeth Hoefler, said Ashley isn't comfortable about being referred to as a hero.
"She might feel different had Juliana lived," Hoefler said. "But I told her that her actions saved eight lives."
Juliana's parents donated eight of their daughter's organs. Eight people received the gift of life from her.
Hoefler said they visited Juliana's parents, to express their condolences.
"Kathy Hobbs just hugged each of us so hard and so long," she said.
Ashley is an A-student at DeLand High. She participates in chorus, and is an active volunteer at Du Bar Horse Rescue and Rehab.
Ashley said working with rescued horses is therapeutic.
"The day after the accident, I was there all day," she said.
Ashley was considering a career in veterinary medicine, but after seeing firsthand what emergency medical technicians do, she may change her mind.
"It will be in medical," she said. "I just haven't decided if it will be veterinary or people."
Juliana's funeral was March 24. The driver who hit her and Rachel left the scene. The Florida Highway Patrol, which is investigating the crash, impounded a 2004 Toyota that belongs to a DeLand woman, whom the agency will not identify, in connection with the fatality, but has released no new information about the crash or any charges.
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