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Peter Donnelly‚??s fast action may have saved the life of his grandmother, Fran Donnelly, as well as his own. / Tanya Breen, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

HAZLET, N.J. -- Fourteen-year-old Peter Donnelly was staring down at his cellphone when his grandmother lost consciousness while driving on the Garden State Parkway.

The seconds that followed on Dec. 7 could have ended their lives. But Peter, a freshman at Raritan High School in Hazlet, made a series of fast decisions that saved their lives and protected the drivers around them.

"I remember paying the toll and that's all I remember," Fran Donnelly, 66, recalled.

The two had attended a breakfast that day held by the environmental group Clean Ocean Action, then done some shopping at Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, before Donnelly was struck with extreme fatigue.

During the drive home, she lost consciousness.

"I was looking at my phone at the time, and when I looked up, I looked over and we were going very slow," Peter recalled.

He called to his grandmother two or three times, and she didn't respond. Peter remembers seeing the car headed for the guardrail before he grabbed the wheel, steered the vehicle to safety, and put the car in park.

"I really couldn't comprehend what was going on," he said. "Everything kind of blacked out and I just saw where I was going."

In what Peter describes as the frightening moments that followed, he called 911, stepped out of the car, and walked to the driver's side to try to rouse his grandmother.

"I thought she had died at the wheel, because she wasn't responding," Peter said.

Another driver, a woman, stopped to help Peter and calm him as he waited for emergency responders. Just seconds before an ambulance arrived, Donnelly started to moan, Peter said.

"I remember waking up in the ambulance," Donnelly recalled of the ordeal.

After a hospital evaluation, CT scan and a round of blood work, she still has no answers on what caused her to faint behind the wheel. But she is thankful Peter was there with her.

"I could have hit an innocent person that was just driving next to me, and hurt them, or hurt him (Peter)," she said. "I haven't driven since."

Since the event, Peter has become a hero in the Hazlet neighborhood where his house stands across the street from his grandmother's.

Not only are the grandson and grandmother close in proximity, but they have bonded through 10 years of Peter's young life by working for beach and ocean protection. He was just 4 years old when they started cleaning beaches together, Donnelly said.

"He's my hero," she said. "I'm very proud of him."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: After driver blacks out, grandson steers car to safety

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