Editor’s Note: As a convenience to Philomath Express readers, here’s a sampling of other news going on around Oregon as reported by The Associated Press and other wire services.
How an Oregon woman survived 7 days after her SUV plunged off a cliff
By Matthias Gafni, East Bay Times (distributed by Tribune Content Agency via The Associated Press)
BIG SUR, Calif. — The cold, salty water rose over Angela Hernandez’s knees, jolting her back into consciousness. She touched her throbbing head and her hands returned red with blood.
She was awake, but where?
Inside her vehicle, she looked through the windshield at a rising, gray Pacific Ocean. Minutes, maybe hours earlier, the 23-year-old had plummeted 250 feet off a jagged Big Sur cliff, her crumpled white 2011 Jeep Patriot landing wheels down on a rocky shoreline.
“Everything kind of happens fast here,” Hernandez recounted in a Facebook post late Sunday night from her hospital bed, sharing unbelievable details of her miraculous survival over seven cold, wet nights alone on that isolated beach — before her just as miraculous rescue Friday by a married couple searching for a fishing spot.
Her survival story — told through Facebook posts and interviews with her rescuers Monday — was embraced on social media and heralded by Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal at a news conference Monday: “She wouldn’t be with us if she didn’t have that fight in her.”
Her last memory had been seconds before the crash on July 6. As she drove along the curvy, scenic Highway 1, a small animal darted in front of her SUV and she swerved.
“I don’t really remember much of the fall,” Hernandez wrote.
When her Jeep finally stopped tumbling and she came to, Hernandez quickly unbuckled her seat belt and noticed the water level rising. She was trapped inside. Not a single window in her SUV broke during the plunge. In the front seat, she found an emergency tool and began slamming it against the driver’s side window.
“Isabel!” she screamed over and over as she banged the glass, the thought of her sister helping her summon strength in her broken body — a brain hemorrhage, four fractured ribs, broken collar bones, collapsed lung, ruptured blood vessels in both eyes.
Finally free from the vehicle, a dazed Hernandez jumped into the ocean and swam to shore. She tucked up against the impossibly high cliff, onto rocks as far away from the encroaching waves as she could.
And blacked out.
It was daylight when she awoke. She had slept for hours. The gravity of her ordeal hit her as she saw her demolished SUV.
“I could see my car not too far from me, half washed up on shore with the roof ripped off of it. I looked down at my feet and saw that my shoes were gone,” Hernandez wrote. “I saw nothing but rocks, the ocean, and a cliff that I knew I’d never be able to look over.”
Hernandez had been driving from Portland to the Southern California city of Lancaster to visit family, who said it wasn’t like her to suddenly stop texting and calling. Investigators from Oregon to California searched for clues to her disappearance, but it would take days before police were able to narrow her last whereabouts to the Big Sur area. They estimate — based on cell phone pings and surveillance footage of Hernandez driving near Big Sur — that she plunged off the cliff around 11 a.m. July 6.
Search parties canvassed Highway 1 looking for signs of a vehicle careening off a cliff, but found no obvious signs, Bernal said Monday. It was only after her rescue that police found a foot-long section of stone wall broken off, but it was down the cliff and out of sight.
Hernandez was on her own.
The first few days were a blur, Hernandez wrote. She would walk up and down the beach, climbing rocks, and then returning to the water when the hot rocks became unbearable.
She scrambled to a high spot on the shoreline that allowed her to see the cars driving along Highway 1, achingly close to her.
“(I) 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,” she wrote. “Just one person noticing me.”
She would stay there for hours each day, before the sun on her burned face, feet and hands became unbearable and she’d return to her makeshift camp.
By about the fourth day, Hernandez began feeling the effects of dehydration. She returned to the hulk of her SUV and searched for any items she could use.
She found a 10-inch black radiator hose that had broken off during the crash and tucked it into her sweater pocket.
She walked south down the beach farther than she had before — her socks stripped down to shreds of fabric, her jeans torn apart in the back — and suddenly heard a dripping sound. She spotted a large patch of moss with water trickling from it.
“I caught the water in my hands and tasted it. It was fresh!!!!” Hernandez wrote. “I collected as much as I could in my little hose and drank from it for maybe an hour.”
This became her daily ritual. She would walk to her mossy oasis and spend the rest of the day searching for high grounds, desperately screaming for help at motorists.
Songs would play repeatedly inside her head, over and over, she wrote. Thoughts would creep in and out. What food would she eat when she was found? What would the face of her rescuer look like?
At night, she would scurry to high ground away from the rising tides, falling asleep with waves lapping up against her. She’d awake to watch the sun rise, soaked in sea mist.
Early Friday morning, Hernandez woke up to a bright night sky and spotted the Big Dipper.
“I walked to my usual spots on the beach and started looking at everything a little bit differently,” she wrote. “I fell asleep between some big rocks and let the sand cover my hair.”
Chelsea and Chad Moore are surfers, but on Friday the waves weren’t great, so they decided to explore a remote beach and find a fishing spot. Using ropes, the couple climbed down a little-known and treacherous path. For an hour or so, they hiked along the beach north.
Around 5 p.m., the Moores found a bumper in the sand. They walked around a bend and saw the damaged SUV.
“I noticed the car was new. It looked like it had just landed there,” Chad Moore told KION TV. “We had no idea a person was missing. We had no idea a car had driven off a cliff until then.”
They found no one inside, but began to gather items and removed the license plate so they could report it to police. As high tide snuck in around 6:15 p.m., the couple decided to leave a different way out.
As they walked away, Hernandez, tucked in the shade away from the water, sat up and saw the shape of a woman. She thought it was another of her rescue dreams.
“I screamed, ‘HEEELLLPPPPP!’ and then got up as quickly as I could and ran over to her,” Hernandez wrote.
“We turned around and Angela was right there on the rocks. She looked like hell, but happy at the same time,” Chad told KION. “No one could survive that, but Angela did.”
“I couldn’t believe that they were even real,” Hernandez wrote. “I couldn’t believe that we had finally found each other.”
The couple had even collected keepsakes scattered around Hernandez’s vehicle, including a concert poster her sister gave to her as a gift and an AmeriCorps medal she received for her volunteering.
Chelsea ran off to get help and it was when she reached a camp post, she saw the missing flyer for Hernandez and it dawned on her that she had been down there for a week.
Meanwhile, Chad made small talk with Angela, even discussing the movie “Castaway,” where Tom Hanks gets marooned on a deserted island.
“But where are the coconuts?” Hernandez laughed.
“Sorry, there are no coconuts in Big Sur,” Chad joked back.
Within a few hours, a rescue team pulled Hernandez up the cliff that she had stared hopelessly up for a week.
“Total legend,” Chelsea told the television crew. “She’s here for a reason, and we were there for a reason. And we’re so glad she’s OK.”
Once in the hospital, Hernandez was reunited with her family.
And as she typed her Facebook message Sunday night from her hospital bed, she shared lessons learned from her ordeal perhaps as large as the Pacific Ocean.
“I’m sitting here in the hospital, laughing with my sister until she makes broken bones hurt. I’ve met some of the most beautiful human beings that I think I’ll ever meet in my entire life,” she wrote. “I’ve experienced something so unique and terrifying and me 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.”
(Staff writer Anna-Sofia Lesiv contributed to this report.)
Advancing wildfire prompts evacuations in Oregon
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has invoked an emergency order in response to a wildfire burning in two north-central counties and mandatory evacuations for dozens of households.
The Emergency Conflagration Act announced early Wednesday allows the Oregon fire marshal to mobilize resources from around the state to protect homes.
The rapidly advancing grass fire in the Columbia River Gorge near The Dalles, Oregon, started Tuesday and expanded during the night more than 45 square miles.
One home has burned, along with some other structures.
Roughly 75 households have been told to evacuate.
Also on Tuesday, several businesses, homes and an assisted living facility were evacuated in Central Point, Oregon, near Medford because of a wildfire.
Medford Police said the fire spread quickly through dry brush in a field behind a Costco store and toward the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.
The fire caused property damage, but no injuries were reported and the flames were stopped before reaching the airport, police said.
Proposed repeal of Oregon sanctuary law makes fall ballot
PORTLAND (AP) — The state Elections Division says a measure to repeal Oregon's sanctuary law has qualified for the November ballot.
The initiative petition needed more than 88,000 valid signatures, and it easily surpassed that threshold.
The 1987 law prohibits state agencies from inquiring about a person's immigration status if they haven't committed another crime and bans state and local law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration officials on raids and roundups.
Supporters of a repeal say the law shields people who have committed crimes from potential deportation.
Those who back the sanctuary law say it was passed to address racial profiling.