Family reflects on their Erie Canal tragedy that almost took children

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Selah Clanton lived, but there was loss

Jon and Yvonne Clanton found themselves back in Rochester last month.

Something was wrong with their son’s eye and they needed to see his specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center so they packed their car and started the drive from their home in Florida.

They carried with them wonderful memories of our city, but there’s one that they relive over and over and wish they could change.

On a bright summer day in 2012 Jon Clanton took a couple steps away from the stroller carrying two of his children, Sam and Selah, to find shade so he could check the time on this phone.

In those few seconds the stroller started to roll down the Erie Canal trail and before Jon could grab it the stroller plunged into the water.

“I just had to jump in with them at the same time and try to hold both their heads up and dog paddle,” Jon remembered.

The nightmare played out for minutes until someone nearby heard his screaming and jumped in.

“She had been a swimmer in high school and she swam towards us and I was able to unhook Sam and hand Sam off to her and she swam back to the area where the other lady awaited for Sam to be received up,” Jon said.

But Jon couldn’t unhook Selah.

She nearly drowned, but medics saved her life.

The damage, though, was done.

Selah had severe developmental disabilities when Jon and Yvonne had adopted her and her sister from Ukraine, but the incident left her in a coma.

Yvonne says today Selah has minimal consciousness and requires 24-7 nursing care in their home.

“I have special needs kids, but we had never had anything like that happen,” Yvonne said.

They’ve received help over the years, especially from Habitat for Humanity, but the emotional trial has tested them.

“We have been through more than our fair share and I don’t understand it, sometimes I’m just like, God, can we just have a few years where we have nothing, just let us live like we are for a few years, no medical dramas,” Yvonne said.

Their faith, they say, has sustained them.

“We needed a rescue, but he gave us a peace and a grace and a hope that all would be well and we would come through it and he one day at a time would walk with us and give us the strength and he has,” Jon said.

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