PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As their mother lay dead in the middle of the night, a 4-year-old Oregon girl dragged her seriously injured younger sister from a crashed car and the two huddled under a blanket — and waited.
With the mangled car stuck deep in the woods, and no skid marks on the highway, the crash site was nearly impossible to detect.
In fact, authorities estimate the sisters were alone in the frigid woods for several hours early Wednesday as many motorists drove past it.
The girls finally got help after two commercial fishermen spotted what appeared from a distance to be a basketball-sized gash in an alder tree along State Highway 401 between Astoria, Ore., and Naselle, Wash. Kraai McClure and Scott Beutler travel the two-lane road frequently, and had a gut feeling something was wrong.
The men slowed down, discussed the situation and decided to turn around and go take a look. McClure said he called 911 to see if there had been any reports of a wreck during the night. There weren't.
Beutler, who was a first responder when he lived in Mississippi, went into the brush and signaled McClure to alert authorities.
"I don't know exactly what told us to turn around, but I'm just really thankful we did," McClure said Thursday.
The men spotted the wrecked car a few hundred feet from the road. Nearby were the two young girls, scared and confused. "They could say their names but were totally in shock," McClure said.
The Washington State Patrol said the girls' mother, 26-year-old Jessica Rath of Astoria, probably was asleep when she veered off the road and struck the tree shortly after midnight. She died at the scene.
McClure and Beutler discovered the crash site around 8:30 a.m.
The 2-year-old, who had serious leg injuries, was flown to a Portland hospital. The 4-year-old was treated at an Astoria hospital and released. Continued...