SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Dr. Ronald Cornelsen has made it a habit to help strangers.

His daughter, Megan Kiklas, said the 88-year-old California pediatrician was often the first to aid a person who collapsed in the grocery store, or got involved in a nasty car wreck.

So it was no surprise to her when Cornelsen and her sister, Heather Williams, stopped to help people involved in a crash on I-80 last week in Tooele County — only to become seriously injured themselves.

“This has been just such a tragic event to just see that his nature of giving, of helping … resulted in such a freak accident,” Kiklas said.

Cornelsen, Williams, and her husband were less than a half-hour drive from their hotel when they witnessed a crash on Nov. 6 on I-80’s eastbound lanes.

According to the Utah Highway Patrol, a pickup tried to make a U-turn to help jumpstart a car stranded on the side of the road. But as the truck was turning, another car slammed into its side.

After parking their car a safe distance away, Cornelsen and Williams went to check on the victims, only one of whom suffered minor injuries.

But that’s when a semi truck slammed into the T-boned pickup, shoving the vehicle into Cornelsen and Williams. Both were trapped underneath the wreckage, seriously wounded.

“He could only hear his daughter screaming out for help, her cries, and he was unable to help,” Kiklas said. “That is every father’s worst nightmare.”

Dr. Ronald Cornelsen, of California, is pictured in the hospital after he was involved in a serious crash on I-80 in Tooele County.
Dr. Ronald Cornelsen, of California, is pictured in the hospital after he was involved in a serious crash on I-80 in Tooele County.

A medical helicopter airlifted Cornelsen and his daughter to a Wasatch Front hospital.

Cornelsen had suffered broken bones in his leg, pelvis and ribs, cuts and bruises all over his body, and damage to his kidneys.

He underwent surgery Tuesday, wherein a metal rod was placed into his broken leg. His road to recovery will be long.

Against Cornelsen’s wishes, Kiklas created a GoFundMe page for her father, as his medical bills and the expenses connected to his out-of-state hospital stay are stacking up.

“He wasn’t very pleased, but I told him there is another side of reality,” Kiklas said.

So far, the fundraiser has amassed more than $7,000. Another fundraiser was also posted for Williams, who lost an eye and must undergo rounds of facial reconstruction surgery.

Kiklas said that while her father was trapped underneath the crumpled pickup truck, he could feel his hair move as the cars continued to speed past him.

She is now urging Utah drivers to slow down when they see a crash.

“If you see an accident, stop, try to help, and pump those brakes, put on those flashers, and help bring awareness to safety on the road,” she said. “Because this has forever changed our lives.”