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EDITOR’S NOTE: Savannah Edinger, 22, lives in Grand Junction now but grew up in Meeker and works at Buffalo Horn Ranch. She suffered severe burns and a broken foot, and the loss of two of her beloved horses, in a tragic fire on I-70 earlier this month that destroyed her truck and trailer. By telephone Monday, Edinger said her healing is “definitely coming along” and that her doctors are pleased with her progress thus far, although the process is probably going to take the rest of the year. “The love and support and everything the community has done is very helpful and heartwarming,” she said.
By Katie Langford
Daily Sentinel Reporter
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | Savannah Edinger’s horses know her better than anyone else in the world.
They are her best friends, confidants and protectors, whether it’s riding through fields or racing around barrels at rodeo competitions.
Everyone who knows Savannah knows that she is tied to her horses, an irreplaceable connection that’s hard to explain but impossible to miss.
So when her truck and horse trailer caught fire and crashed on Interstate 70 July 7, she didn’t question whether she should run into a flame-engulfed horse trailer to save her animals. It was instinct.
Edinger, 22, spends most of her days working on a large ranch in Meeker. When she’s not building fences, putting up hay and gathering cows, Edinger can usually be found with her horses—quarter horses Pepi, Amigo and Sunshine, who joined the family 10 years ago, and Caliber, the youngest horse and trainee.
Edinger was driving home from a trip to shoe the horses for the Rio Blanco County Fair when her truck started overheating outside of De Beque.
“All of a sudden I could smell everything starting to get really hot and when the truck started smoking, I knew it was going to end up bad,” Edinger said.
Edinger tried to slow down the truck, but the brakes did not respond.
“I knew I needed to slow down the truck and to make sure I didn’t put anybody else in danger,” she said.
So Edinger started driving into the guardrail to slow down the vehicle, hitting it again and again in an effort to keep the truck from going into the other lane. The truck’s cab filled with smoke, and soon she couldn’t see or breathe.
“At that point I knew that I couldn’t control the truck. There was nothing left to do,” she said.
So Edinger grabbed her dog, Koda, opened the door and jumped out. She hit the pavement, breaking her foot and covering one side of her body with road rash and bruises.
She sat up in time to see the truck run off the road and jackknife in the brush, and she watched as flames started to consume the truck and horse trailer and spread to the surrounding grass.
She didn’t think about anything else when she started running toward the fire — not her broken bones or bruised body.
“I just thought, ‘My family, my animals.’ Of doing everything I possibly could because my animals are my life, my horses are my life and they are more important to me than saving myself. So I thought of doing everything I could to help them and save them,” she said.
As the fire spread to more of the trailer, Edinger ran into the flames to save her horses.
“I got the first two (Caliber and Pepi) out and at that point I think I realized that some people had stopped so I was screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to come help. I let the (first) two out of the horse trailer not knowing if someone was going to get them,” she said.
“I went back into the horse trailer to get the other two out, but I couldn’t get them out in time because at that point the flames really started coming inside the trailer, and I had to book it to get out and save myself.”
The other two horses did not survive.
Edinger is still grappling with her accident and wondering if she could have done anything differently or prevented it.
Her injuries mean she’s unable to ride her horses for at least eight weeks. Her left arm and part of her left leg are covered in burns and her right foot is broken.
“At first I didn’t realize how severe and serious things actually are. I have pretty minor injuries for what happened, but at first I didn’t realize that it could have been way more serious, that I might actually not be here.
“That’s been difficult to grasp,” she said. “But I know that I did my best, that I’m going to heal and everything is going to be OK.”
Even though she is covered in gauze and bandages and relies on a knee scooter to navigate with a broken foot, Edinger still finds a way to visit her best friends. Pepi and Caliber tilt their heads toward her and she rubs their foreheads and noses. Koda circles her feet.
Edinger’s mother, Tammy, said the family has been overwhelmed with the community response to Savannah’s ordeal.
“We’re just humbled by how loving and kind everyone has been. We’re so thankful to everybody,” she said.
In response to numerous people asking how they could help, Edinger’s family has set up an online fundraiser to help her replace lost equipment and other expenses. To date, nearly 75 people have donated more than $9,000 to help her get back on her feet.
For more information, visit www.youcaring.com/savannah-edinger-870842.
This article is reprinted with permission from the July 13 edition of the Daily Sentinel. (www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/best-friend-to-the-rescue)