Nightly News   |  January 16, 2012

Dramatic ravine rescue ends well

In Southern California, a car accident involving a mother and her two daughters ended up having all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster: tragedy, suspense, a huge dose of courage, and a surprise ending. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: In Southern California a terrible car accident involving a mother and her two

daughters ended up having all the elements of a movie: tragedy at first, suspense, a huge dose or courage and surprise ending. Our report tonight from NBC 's Mike Taibbi .

MIKE TAIBBI reporting: It was the kind of action that makes you avert your eyes. How could there be any survivors? It happened last Thursday afternoon on a curved stretch of California Highway 101, north of Santa Barbara . A small car , a BMW sedan, mangled beyond recognition. The other vehicle, a big rig truck in a ravine 100 feet below, its driver, Charles Allison , killed. Police say the truck had rear ended the car.

Mr. DANNY MAHER (California Highway Patrol): The BMW was then forced into the center concrete wall where the three parties in the BMW became trapped in the vehicle.

TAIBBI: Trapped and alive. But as the afternoon wore on, the shredded car hung precariously over the ravine 100 feet below. First grade teacher Kelli Lynne Groves said her daughters were with her, 10-year-old Sage and 10-week-old Milo . Seat belts , air bags and the baby's car seat had all done their jobs. And dozens of first responders, fire, rescue, police, and hazmat teams did theirs while facing multiple dangers to themselves and the car's occupants.

Battalion Chief WOODY ENOS (Santa Barbara County Fire Department): Each time we tried to pry her out, the car kept slipping over the side a little bit more .

TAIBBI: Then an amazing stroke of luck. A team of Navy Seabees construction workers just happened on the scene. And in their convoy, a heavy duty forklift with a telescoping arm, exactly what was needed.

Chief ENOS: Extremely lucky. We were really lucky that they were there. And they offered to help.

TAIBBI: Now, the wreck stabilized, the victims could be extracted. The girls first. Sage with a stuffed doll at her chest. Baby Milo with only minor injuries, and finally, mom Kelli . She'd been calm, rescuers said, very cooperative, and along with her two daughters, almost miraculously alive. Mike Taibbi , NBC News, Los Angeles .