EXCLUSIVE: 8-Year-Old Hailed a Hero After Saving Siblings in Wreck in Rockford


Mangled metal and splintered wood show the severity of a car crash last Thursday on Riverside near Central. Our Eyewitness News cameras captured the scene . The video shows the remnants of an eight-year-old girl’s fight to steer a vehicle, swerving out of control after her mom had a seizure behind the wheel.

“When I found out about the news, I wasn’t surprised whatsoever that Jenna jumped over the seat,” explained James Nilson, the eight-year-old’s father, from the UW Hospital in Madison, WI. “She’s very courageous, she’s willing to jump into action anytime somebody needs her.”

It’s been over a week since crews freed Jenna Nilson from the wreckage. Now, she’s in a hospital in Madison undergoing surgeries to repair her broken legs, jaw, and other injuries from the accident. Jenna’s dad has watched his little girl lay in a hospital bed after trying desperately to steer her two baby sisters and mom to safety.

And it appears she did just that. While Jenna remains hospitalized, her mother and two sisters suffered just minor injuries in the accident.

“I’m extremely proud of my daughter, yes,” said James. “Even though she didn’t stop the vehicle, I know that she was in the process of it, and that makes her a hero to me.”

And apparently a hero to hundreds of other stateliners. Nearly 500 people are following Jenna’s story on her Facebook page “Prayers for Jenna”.  Family friend and neighbor Lisa Latino set up the Facebook page along with this link to a GoFundMe account for Jenna and her quickly soaring medical costs. It’s a small act for a girl who Latino says has a big heart.

” [She was a] happy-go-lucky child until all of this struck and now she’s kind of down and out and everyone around here misses her.

Support that’s evident on social media and to a dad who certainly appreciates it.

“I feel very blessed that I’m getting the support and the community is just coming together right now,” said James. “I don’t know how to thank everybody enough.”

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