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California kayaker saves family after SUV plunges into river

El Dorado County Fire Department / AP

This image provided by the El Dorado County Fire Department shows the crash site where an SUV veered off a road and ended up in the American River near Kyburz, in Northern California. A kayaker is being credited with helping to save the family of five after the wreck.

A kayaker in California is being called a hero for rescuing a family after their SUV veered off the road and landed in the middle of a river on Saturday.

The SUV carrying three children and their parents went out of control and slammed into a concrete mile marker, a tree and a boulder before coming to rest in the middle of the American River near Sacramento, according to authorities.

Mark Divittori happened to be kayaking in that part of the river when the crash happened.

The mangled vehicle plunged into the river just yards behind his kayak.

“It was fortuitous that they didn’t actually land on me. I was kayaking right there moments before they plunged off the cliff,” Divittori told NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA.

The three children were able to unbuckle their seatbelts and get out of the vehicle so that Divittori could get them to safety.

But the driver remained pinned upside down in the SUV, with his wife holding his head above water, according to KCRA.

In another stroke of good luck, a fire truck was nearby and was able to get to the family in just three minutes to rescue the parents. El Dorado County firefighters used a life jacket to keep the father's head above water while they cut the roof off the SUV, said Fire Marshal Mike Pott.

Pott told KCRA that the lack of rainfall in the area may have been a key factor in saving the man’s life since the river is not as high or swift as it normally is at this point in the year.

Only the father suffered serious injuries, officials said.