4-Year-Old Boy Survives Being Internally Decapitated Thanks to Stranger’s Actions

June 5, 2016 Updated: June 22, 2017

A 4-year-old boy survived a horrific injury during a car crash—one that most people don’t come back from.

The family of Killian Gonzalez, 4, said a stranger held the boy’s head perfectly still as his skull separated from his spine, KBOI-TV in Idaho reported on June 3.

Killian and his mother Brandy Gonzalez were driving back to Nevada after celebrating his fourth birthday when their vehicle lost control and crashed.

“I’m trying to turn and I’m just sliding at this point. And then bam and we hit. And the last thing I remember is looking back at my baby,” Brandy told the station. A Nampa Police Officer and his wife, Leah Woodward, saw the crash and helped. They heard screams from Killian.

Woodward said she held the boy’s head straight for half-an-hour, which likely saved the child’s life.

“It’s just so hard because I’m in the same town and I haven’t been able to see him,” the child’s mother told KBOI. “It’s just hard knowing he’s in so much pain and I can’t be there.”

Doctors say about one percent of people survive being internally decapitated, reported KBOI, and those who do survive require extensive surgery and have to wear a halo brace for some time. It is also known as Atlanto-occipital dislocation or orthopedic decapitation. The injury is immediately fatal in 70 percent of cases, with an additional 15% surviving to the emergency room, according to a study.

“No mom should lose their child and she gets to have her boy. That’s really awesome,” Woodward said.

Killian is expected to make a full recovery. The child is eating, walking, and sitting up by himself. And he didn’t require surgery.