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We often hear tales of drivers who survive horrific car accidents. However, one driver stayed alive despite going over a 200-foot cliff and landing in water. The woman not only survived the impact but also used car safety knowledge to stay alive for seven days until she was finally rescued. 

What can we learn from her story? Let’s find out.

Car safety know-how saved a driver’s life in California

A white car drives near cliffs in Big Sur along California's Pacific coast
A white car drives near cliffs in Big Sur along California’s Pacific coast | Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Angela Hernandez of Portland, Oregon, is a prime example of a person using her noggin to survive a dangerous situation. She was traveling to Southern California to visit family when she swerved to avoid hitting a small animal and ended up going off a rocky cliff. 

The SUV she was driving rolled about 200 to 250 feet down the cliffside. The Jeep landed partially submerged in the ocean. Angela blacked out, and when she came to, she found herself stuck in the vehicle with water filling the cabin. Her first instinct was to grab a multiuse tool she kept near the front seat of her SUV. After unbuckling her seatbelt, she used the tool to break the driver’s window so she could get out. 

Once out, she swam to shore and passed out for approximately three days. When she woke up, she began looking for a freshwater source. Hernandez knew the ocean water would cause dehydration, and finding an alternative way would be necessary. She found it through water dripping from a patch of moss. 

What she ended up doing was genius. Hernandez took the small black radiator hose she had retrieved from the wreck and used it to drink the water while she waited for rescue. 

During the days she waited, she walked around the beach area looking for higher spots to climb up so she could sleep at night, avoiding the Pacific Ocean’s rising tides. While she looked, she yelled as loudly as she could, hoping someone would hear her. 

According to CNN, two campers noticed the wreckage of her SUV at the bottom of the cliff. They contacted authorities, who found Hernandez still in good spirits despite her situation. 

Keeping a car emergency kit handy

Hernandez had the right idea of keeping that tool in her car near the front seat. Often, drivers go through the trouble of getting a car emergency kit but store it in the trunk. That wouldn’t have done Hernandez any good in her predicament. 

Store your car emergency kit near the front seat for quick and easy access. Some can fit in the glove box, the center console, or a pouch behind the front passenger seat. That way, the kit is handy no matter the situation.

A car emergency kit should contain first-aid supplies, a blanket, a lighter/matches, water purifying tablets, and protein bars, to name just a few. It would be best if you also had a tool with a blade to cut through seatbelts and a spring-loaded center punch to break windows. The kit should be in a waterproof container to protect the contents if you find yourself in an ocean as Hernandez did. 

What other car safety tips could’ve helped Hernandez?

One helpful item to keep handy in your car is a mirror. Hernandez ended up at the bottom of a cliff, meaning finding her wouldn’t be easy. If Hernandez had had a mirror, passersby in cars might have spotted her. 

The sun’s reflection off the mirror could have captured the attention of any driver in the area. They likely would’ve stopped to see what was going on. But Hernandez got lucky. The couple that spotted the wreck was walking along the road close to the cliff. 

Angela had learned these lifesaving tips somewhere along the line, and they helped keep her alive while rescuers searched for her. Using that know-how saved her life, so take a page from her book and keep an emergency kit nearby. You never know when you’ll need it. 


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