Was the mysterious voice from heaven?

Marney Rich Keenan
The Detroit News

Yes, the headlines were sensational: “Crash Miracle: Utah Officers Hear Voice” and “ ‘Mysterious voice’ leads police to baby in submerged car.”

But before you get all cynical, consider this: These were cops and firefighters, rugged tough guys, well versed in crime and the dark side, rather than anything resembling winged celestial beings.

And it wasn’t just one person who heard the voice, but six of them: four police officers and two firefighters.

As Spanish Fork Police Officer Tyler Beddoes told the Desert News in Salt Lake City: “It wasn’t just something that was just in our heads. To me it was plain as day cause I remember hearing a voice. I think it was Dewitt who said, ‘We’re trying. We’re trying our best to get in there.’ How do you explain that? I don’t know.”

That plea of help led officers to rescue a Utah toddler in an overturned submerged vehicle in the Spanish Fork River near the Utah, Colorado, border last weekend. Trapped inside — upside down in her car seat for 14 hours — was an 18-month-old baby named Lily. Her mother, Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, 25, did not survive.

Police say that Groesbeck was returning from a visit with her parents on the night of March 6 when she hit a cement barrier on a bridge and drove off the roadway. The car was not visible from the road and wasn’t discovered until a fisherman spotted it around noon on Saturday.

The first responders said the voice catapulted them into action, rolling the overturned submerged vehicle in the frigid, neck-high water, so cold several had to be treated for hypothermia.

In interviews with ABC News, local TV stations and other media outlets, the six rescuers said the voice fueled their adrenaline.

“It was a positive boost for every one of us, because I think it pushed us to go harder a little longer,” Beddoes said. “We know there was some other help there, getting us where we needed to be.”

Officer Bryan Dewitt concurred: “We were down on the car and a distinct voice says, ‘Help me, help me.’ ”

Officer Jared Warner said: “We’ve gotten together and just talkin’ about it, and all four of us can swear that we heard somebody inside the car saying, ‘Help.’ “We’re not exactly sure where that voice came from.”

None of the rescue team said they thought the voice came from Groesbeck. “I don’t believe she survived the impact of the car crash,” Lt. Matt Johnson said. “There was massive trauma.”

Two firefighters, Paul Tomadakis and Lee Mecham, said they also heard the voice before realizing there was a toddler in the car. They were able to cut the baby out of her car seat and the officers and firefighters formed an assembly line up the hill to pass the baby up to safety. Doctors from nearby Primary Children’s Hospital were crediting the rescue team for saving Lily’s life.

On Tuesday, Baby Lily’s family released the following statement about her recovery: “Her improvement is astounding. Right now she’s watching ‘Dora’ and singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ with Grandpa. We’re blown away by Lily’s progress and so grateful to her rescuers.”

Not surprisingly, the faithful came out in droves in social media and online comment sections. They insisted the voice came from the baby’s mother; an entreaty from heaven to rescue her child.

“God intervened to save that child, either by sending an angel to call out on its behalf, or by permitting the child’s mother to cry out on its behalf,” one read.

And: “The baby was unconscious and they all said they heard a distinct voice saying the word ‘help.’ What’s not to believe?’”

But the naysayers countered: “Isn’t this story amazing enough without inserting superstitious nonsense into the mix?” And: “If God intervened, why didn’t he save the mother, too?”

There was even this curious comment. “Certain birds can mimic sounds and voices. Is it possible that a bird was mimicking the mom’s voice from when the accident first happened.”

One commenter expressed frustration: “Why do stories like this always turn into God vs. no God & who believes in what. Can’t we just simply be sad about the tragedy and happy for the fact that this little girl beat the odds and survived. Who cares why?”

Deep down, I think we all care why. We can’t help ourselves. At one time or another, we must fess up to a deep anxiety about the existence or nonexistence of an afterlife. It’s the age-old argument favored by agnostics: The absence of evidence is the evidence of absence.

One commenter put it succinctly: “For those who chose to believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who choose not to believe, no explanation is possible. I choose to believe.” Maybe that’s why they call it a leap of faith.