Good Samaritans take action after Tooele man badly burned at campsite


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TOOELE — A Tooele County family is thanking the good Samaritans who saved their father's life during a camping trip emergency.

Joey Espinoza's daughter and stepdaughters said their dad was badly burned when he had a seizure that caused him to fall into a campfire. He and his wife, Leanna, had been camping in Middle Canyon when it happened around 11 p.m. on June 8.

"The last thing he remembers is throwing a couple sticks into the fire," his daughter Michaela said. "Then he woke up in the truck that nearby campers were taking him in. He does not remember anything that happened."

Michaela said her stepmom, Leanna, was sitting next to her husband when he fell face-first into the campfire.

"I'm very, very grateful she was right there," she said. "She pulled him out so fast and pulled him straight back. Luckily, she didn't get burned."

She said Leanna yelled for help and turned on her car alarm to alert nearby campers.

"When the alarm is going off and she was just screaming at the top of her lungs, then she just (saw) cars just coming, just coming in the campground," said Brandee Harris, Leanna's daughter.

Harris said the strangers loaded Espinoza into one of their vehicles. They did not have cell service, so they drove him to Mountain West Medical Center, where he was taken to University of Utah Hospital.

"If they wouldn't have done it, who knows what could have happened," Michaela said.

Family says Joey Espinoza, pictured here, was badly burned when he had a seizure that caused him to fall into a campfire in Middle Canyon June 8. They're grateful for his wife and good Samaritans who helped.
Family says Joey Espinoza, pictured here, was badly burned when he had a seizure that caused him to fall into a campfire in Middle Canyon June 8. They're grateful for his wife and good Samaritans who helped. (Photo: Espinoza Family)

Saving his life

Jamie Colovich, Espinoza's stepdaughter, said the quick action of complete strangers likely saved his life.

"If it would have been 20 minutes past, his airway would have closed up, given there was so much swelling from all the burns all over his face and down his neck that it just kind of closed, it would have closed up," she said. "So, they were able to intubate him really, really fast."

The third-degree burns have changed the man they love.

"It goes in stages though because he was doing really good, and now mentally and physically and the burns that are surfacing on his face and everything, you can tell it's getting worse," Harris said.

They said the accident has kept him from getting back on his horses, where he is happiest.

"We all were up there today together, and that was really nice," Michaela said. "We had all the grandkids and our spouses were there, and, we could tell that he was not doing OK, and it's hard to not see him smile."

They are staying by his side through his recovery.

"He does have surgery coming up on Tuesday where they will do skin grafts for his hand," Colovich said. "Then they do think that he will likely have to have a skin graft on his face as well."

Espinoza's son-in-law set up a GoFundMe* to help pay for the expenses associated with his recovery.

*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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