An Oregon woman who accidentally drove her SUV off a 250-foot California cliff detailed how she survived for a week while stranded on a remote beach.
On July 6, Angela Hernandez, 23, was passing through Big Sur, California, when a small animal darted in front of her, causing her to swerve. The area where Hernandez swerved has no shoulder, California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Jessica Madueno said, causing her vehicle to plunge off the side of the cliff.
In a Facebook post about the ordeal, Hernandez wrote that she blacked out after the crash and when she came to, her smashed vehicle was filling with water.
"I was still in my car and I could feel water rising over my knees. My head hurt and when I touched it, I found blood on my hands," Hernandez wrote. "I swam to the shore and fell asleep for an unknown amount of time."
Injured but able walk, Hernandez said she patrolled the beach — a desolate stretch of rocks and sand covered by fog and nearly invisible to drivers hundreds of feet above — and climbed rocks looking for another person and screamed for help.
Hernandez said on or around the third day she was stuck on the beach, she began to feel the effects of dehydration. Hernandez found a 10-inch radiator hose to siphon off water from a nearby natural spring, Madueno said.
Hernandez said during the day she would climb a rock and call out to far-off cars she could see for help.
"I could see cars driving across the cliff and felt like if I could yell just loud enough, that one could hear or see me. That's all it would take to make it back to my family," Hernandez wrote. "Just one person noticing me."
After a week of walking the beach, avoiding hot rocks, and calling out to cars in the distance for help, her prayers were finally answered.
Chad and Chelsea Moore were hiking along the beach when they heard Hernandez's cries for help.
"I heard a faint cry for help, and I turned and we saw Angela standing in the rocks," Chelsea Moore said. "She said she woke up that morning and knew it was going to be a good day, and I think I started crying."
Chad Moore stayed with Hernandez while Chelsea Moore ran to get help. When rescue teams arrived, they had to hoist Hernandez up using ropes before airlifting her to the hospital, where doctors discovered she had suffered a brain hemorrhage, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, broken collar bones and ruptured blood vessels.
In a press conference on Monday, Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal said that Hernandez had a long road to recovery ahead of her but said she survived because of her fighting spirit.
"She’s a fighter. She had the will to survive, and I think most people in that situation wouldn’t last that long," Bernal said. "... Her sister believes she wouldn’t be with us if she didn’t have that fight inside her and that will to live."
Bernal noted that he hadn't met Hernandez personally yet and didn't know what skills or background the 23-year-old had that helped her survive, but said, "whatever it is, I want some of that."
Despite the extent of her injuries, Hernandez said she's "sitting here in the hospital, laughing with my sister until she makes broken bones hurt."
"I've experienced something so unique and terrifying," she wrote on her Facebook page, "that I can't imagine that there isn't a bigger purpose for me in this life. I don't know, you guys, life is incredible."