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Behind The Badge: Juab County Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Painter saves baby alongside I-15

Behind the Badge

NEPHI, Utah (ABC4) – A toddler is about to have a birthday this month, two years after a dramatic and scary start to her life but she’s alive and well thanks to the quick actions of a Juab County Sheriff’s sergeant.

Sgt. Chris Painter oversees the Juab County Sheriff’s Department Patrol Division in this county of about 12,000 people, 3,400 square miles, and enough calls to keep him busy.

“We might be a rural community but there’s a lot. We have Interstate 15 running right through the heart of our county,” Sgt. Painter told Behind The Badge. “Any given day we’re going from a fugitive on the run to locating illegal narcotics to medical calls.”

It was one of those medical calls that sticks out the most from his 15-year career. On March 21st, 2019, a woman from Fillmore named Destynee O’Hara went into labor on the way to Salt Lake City and delivered her baby on the side of I-15 north of Nephi. Sgt. Painter was the first to arrive.

“I could see a gentleman, he was very emotional, standing outside of the car,” Sgt. Painter said. “I could see him screamin’. I didn’t know what he was yelling. As I got out I rushed up to him and I could hear him yell that his baby’s not breathing.”

Sgt. Painter, a father of two himself, rushed to the passenger side of the car.”I could see this lifeless newborn baby sitting across her lap. The baby was a dark shade of purple. I knew it hadn’t been breathing,” Sgt. Painter said. “The mom told me she had just barely unwrapped the umbilical cord as I was arriving. It was wrapped around the throat of the baby. At that point she looked at me and I knew that I had to act.”

Painter cleared the infant’s nose and mouth and then began doing CPR on her tiny body, two-finger chest compressions while blowing air toward her face.

“About a minute later while I was still doing chest compressions on this newborn baby, it let out the faint cry,” Sgt. Painter said. “And I knew that it was going to be OK at that point.”

Minutes later EMTs arrived to take over and with them busy caring for Mom and baby, Sgt. Painter hopped into the ambulance and drove them to Central Valley Medical Center.

“The next day I went and visited them at the hospital and they were so thankful. It hit home to me.” Sgt. Painter said. ” It was very…very emotional for me afterwards but during the incident, I knew what I had to do and I just reacted to my past training.”

This past summer, Sergeant Painter was awarded Juab County’s first-ever Lifesaving Award, getting a medal and a plaque from Sheriff Doug Anderson for his quick actions to save that the minutes-old baby who her parents would name Aspen Niccael O’Hara.

“I didn’t have time to act differently than the way I did,” Sgt. Painter said. “If I wouldn’t have held my composure, who knows what would have happened to that child?”

In 19 days, Aspen will celebrate her 2nd birthday. He mother tells me she is happy all the time, loves bananas and adores her big sister. When she gets older, she’ll have quite a story to tell her kids and her grandkids thanks to Sergeant Painter.

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