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'I had an angel next to me:' Bozeman woman thanks rescuer months after Churchill Road rollover

Posted at 10:23 AM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 12:52:57-05

It’s a story of survival and someone going out of their way to save someone’s life.

It started last year when a woman crashed and another nearby rushed to help.

Since then, that woman has been looking for the voice that saved her and, just this week, found her.

On August 29, 2020, Mariah Buckman was driving down Churchill Road in Gallatin County when the unthinkable happened.

She lost control of her car, which then rolled several times.

From that point, she didn’t know what kind of help she could get in such a rural area - until she says she heard the voice of an angel.

“I wasn’t ready to die that day,” Buckman says.

For Buckman, it’s a drive down Churchill Road that she has done before.

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But on Friday, August 29, that drive turned into a nightmare.

“At one point in the road, there was a hill and at the top of the hill, there was a vehicle in my lane,” Buckman says.

Mariah swerved.

“I fishtailed,” Buckman says. “At the bottom of the hill, there was that left-hand turn and my car wouldn’t do it. My car was too out of control. I put one arm on the steering wheel, I put the other on the (door) handle and I pinned my legs down into the car and I just held on.”

The car rolled at least four times.

“When I woke up, I was on the outside of my car,” Buckman says. “I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I looked down at my hands and they were covered in blood. It made me panic.”

Her wrist suffered six fractures.

Her spleen ruptured.

Her spine also was broken and her leg suffered severe trauma, among other serious injuries.

“I was losing blood in two different areas and if I were to have panicked, I would have started hyperventilating which causes the heart rate to go higher and I would have pumped all of the blood out of my body,” Buckman says.

Then, she saw a maroon Suburban and a figure running to her side.

“She says stop moving, the paramedics are already on their way,” Buckman says. “She told me that they said to lay down and just to stay calm. When I laid down, I couldn’t breathe. It was like something was on my chest so I had to sit up. I felt cold and I felt tired. Everybody’s like do not fall asleep.”

The woman wrapped Mariah in her arms and talked.

“God, she just kept talking to me,” Buckman says. “I said please don’t leave. She never left until I got into that helicopter.”

That was the last she saw of her rescuer

Mariah was flown to Bozeman Health, then to St. Vincent’s in Billings, where the woman’s sister visited but only left her initials.

Months passed and Mariah went to Facebook with a message to look for the woman.

“I sent the post out at, like, 10:30 am, 11 o’clock and by 6:30 pm, she had contacted me,” Buckman says.

On the week of February 1, 2021, she found her.

“She saved my life,” Buckman says. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here. My kids, my girls wouldn’t have a mom.”

“I just wanted her to know that she had somebody,” says the anonymous rescuer. “We apparently just missed actually seeing it happen. It’s not one that people tend to just drive because it is a fun way to get to from Point A to Point B. You live on it if you are on it.”

She did not want to be identified but did agree to an interview with MTN’s Cody Boyer, months after saving Buckman’s life.

“I kind of wrapped my arms around her in a hug and we just sat there and I tried talking to her, questions that she’d have to answer-answer,” says the rescuer. “Not just yes and no but she’d have to stay thinking and stay listening and questions like places she’s been and her family. Things that would help make her kinda calm.”

In her Facebook post, Buckman called her rescuer her ‘Guardian Angel,’ a title the woman disagrees with.

But to Buckman, she’s just that and more.

“I’ve thought often of her and I didn’t know if I’d ever get to know what happened but I very much remember her, too, and I’m so, so grateful that she’s healing,” says the rescuer.

When asked if she would do it again, the rescuer replied, “Oh, absolutely.”

“I kind of had a lot of God’s grace and timing,” says the rescuer. “If it was myself, if it was my sister and I got a phone call that something has happened, it would mean a lot that somebody has set aside however much time to just be right there. The first responders were so amazing and Churchill’s volunteer fire department was so fast. Our community around here is still full of that, completely full of people who are going to stop and who are going to come running. I just happened to be the first one.”

“That meant the world to me,” Buckman says. “I had an angel next to me that was just helping me survive and God knew I could. I just needed a little help.”

Mariah stresses the importance of wearing your seatbelt everywhere and adds that an app on her phone, Life-360, helped notify first responders as soon as the crash happened.