DETROIT -- Michigan State Trooper Seth Swanson reached into the broken-out rear window of the mangled car involved in a pileup on Interstate 75 in search of life.
He checked the vitals of a young girl, then the little boy next to her.
Both were unconscious and had no pulse.
Michigan State Trooper Seth Swanson rushed to the other side of the car. With two swift, hard swings of a hammer, he smashed out the other rear window and reached for the third child.
She had a faint pulse.
Her, he could save.
Swanson, a trooper for more than four years, was the first at the accident -- one of a dozen crashes along a roughly 1-mile stretch of southbound I-75 on Jan. 31 after a heavy snow squall blinded drivers. On Wednesday, he recounted the troubling scene and difficult decisions facing first responders.
Swanson, 27, said he was clearing up a different accident when he was dispatched to the multivehicle crash on the interstate that morning in southwest Detroit. He made his way through the whiteout and, directed by motorists out of their vehicles, came upon the crumpled black car carrying a family from the Windsor area.
When the 10-year-old crash victim showed signs of life, Swanson chose to help her, but the other children weren't far from his mind.
"It was the hardest decision I've had to make on the job," he said. "Whoever you can help, you help them."
Swanson cleared the girl's airway, placed a resuscitation mask over her mouth and nose and gave her several rescue breaths. The girl took a deep breath and started screaming.
Swanson held her head and neck, as the sounds of ambulance sirens grew, and looked at the other children in the car. He yelled to them to wake up, that the police were there to help.
"There's nothing you can do," Swanson said. "You feel pretty helpless at that point."
The girl's siblings -- 9-year-old Gabrielle Greenwood and 7-year-old Aidan Hicks -- died.
In total, 43 vehicles, including semi trucks, were involved in a dozen separate crashes that morning, and 12 people were transported to area hospitals, State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said.
Menelaos (Larry) Manolis, 54, of Allen Park, Mich., also was killed in a crash.
The Windsor Star has reported that Gabrielle's father is Glen Greenwood of Windsor. He was injured, as was his wife, who remained hospitalized Wednesday, police said. A post on a Facebook page for Greenwood thanked Swanson for saving his other daughter.
"That young man is my hero and saved my little girls life," the post reads, "i am in eternal debt to that officer."
Swanson said the father, whom he visited Tuesday, told him this is how the crash occurred: Once they hit whiteout conditions, he slowed down and felt the antilock brakes engage, and the car began to coast. With cars spinning on the roadway, he tried to stop, but was bumped by another vehicle, lost control and hit the median. When the car came to rest, it was broadsided by another vehicle.
When Swanson arrived at the accident, some motorists were helpful by moving their vehicles for ambulances. One man, he said, offered up a hammer so Swanson could break out the car window to reach the girl.
"Time is precious," Swanson said.
Once the 10-year-old was revived, he said, there was a moment of relief, but it was short-lived at the sight of the other children.
The girl is now healing. Swanson said he was doing his job.
"It was my pleasure," he said, "to help that family as best I could."