SALINAS (CBS SF) — A missing Oregon woman’s seven-day survival after her jeep plunged 250 feet off a Highway 1 cliff in Monterey County has left her rescuers in awe and amazement.
A massive search for Angela Hernandez, a 23-year-old Portland woman who went missing while traveling to Southern California, focused on Monterey County last Wednesday after her phone was tracked to Carmel Highlands.
An image of her white jeep was also captured on a video camera at a gas station in Big Sur. But weather limited the search until hikers discovered her on a remote Pacific Ocean beach near the wreckage of her vehicle late Friday.
“Angela is an amazing, amazing young woman,” Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal told reporters Monday. “If you go out and look at the scene and if you could see pictures of the scene. Number one, to survive a 250-foot plunge with a car to the ocean, to the rocky bottom of the ocean there, to keep your wits about you, she had water coming into her car.”
“She knew that she had to get out of the car, she found a multi-purpose tool in the car. She was able to break out a window and got out onto the beach. From what I understand she blacked out. She slept for a little while.”
“When she woke up, she realized what had happened to her,” Bernal continued. “She was able to walk around and see if there was any civilization, any living bodies in the area. She wasn’t able to locate anything. This is a beach that is not heavily traveled. People don’t go down there very often.”
On her Facebook page, Hernandez posted her story of survival.
“The only thing I really remember after that (the crash) was waking up,” she wrote. “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. My car’s power was off by now and every window was closed. Everything kind of happens fast here. I took off my seatbelt and found a multi-tool I kept near my front seat. I started hitting the driver-side window with it. Every bone in my body hurt.”
Hernandez was also dealing with surviving ‘life-threatening’ injuries.
Angela Hernandez, Facebook
“She had a brain hemorrhage,” Bernal said. “She had some broken ribs. A shoulder injury, a broken collarbone. She had multiple injuries.”
Hernandez ability to attract help was limited by her injuries and the rocky coastline.
“If you have even been down to Big Sur, the rocky coast of Big Sur and tried to walk around down there, even for a healthy person it is difficult,” Bernal said. “For her to survive for seven days on the coast with waves crashing over her at times, with the injuries that she had, is amazing.”
“She’s a fighter,” he added. “She had the will to survive.”
Angela Hernandez Injuries Facebook Photo
To keep of her strength, Hernandez relied on fresh water from a nearby spring.
“She found a radiator hose (in the wreckage),” Bernal said. “She found a natural spring coming out of the cliff. She noticed some mossy green vegetation and some water dipping off of that. She used that radiator hose to collect the water from that natural spring in the cliff…That’s what she survived on for seven days.”
On her Facebook page, Hernandez posted photos of her injuries and described her daily ritual on the beach.
“Every day, this became my ritual,” she posted. “I’d walk up and down the beach looking for new high grounds, screaming ‘help’ at the top of my lungs, and collecting water falling from the top of the cliffs. Every night, I’d find the highest point I could climb up to and find somewhere to fall asleep before the tide would rise. Every morning, I’d wake up soaked in sea mist and watch the sun rise.”
Bernal said Hernandez verved off Highway 1 to avoid striking an animal.
“From what I got from her sister, she said some kind of animal ran out into the road from the cliff area and she swerved to miss that and that’s when she lost control of the vehicle.”
Bernal said Hernandez had a good feeling when she arose on the seventh day.
“When she woke up Friday morning, she felt like it was gonna be a good day,” said Bernal.
Chad and Chelsea Moore, a married couple hiking in the area on Friday, were looking for places to fish along the beach Friday evening when they saw something strange.
“We saw a bumper first and we were like, ‘Hmm, there’s a bumper. That’s weird.’ And then came around another bend and saw the car,” said Chelsea.
The couple said after they found the Jeep at the bottom of this cliff, they walked back to their campsite about a mile or two from the car along the beach. That is when they found Hernandez.
“We turned around and Angela was right there in the rocks, just looked like hell. She was happy at the same time! She was really happy to see us,” said Chad.
“At that point we just panicked with adrenaline like, ‘Oh my God! You were in that car we just saw and you’re alive and you must need help,’” said Chelsea.
They said Hernandez seemed OK and responsive, and they got help right after. Chelsea brought back food and blankets as they waited for rescuers to arrive.
Hernandez was recovering from her injuries at a local hospital Monday.
“She’s in great spirits and anxious to get out of the hospital,” Bernal said. “She’s going to have a long recovery.”
Hernandez was last seen south of Half Moon Bay on July 6.
Family members said she had been driving from Portland to her sister’s home in Lancaster in Southern California.
“I just want to thank everybody, everybody. Sorry I’m just in shock. Everybody that … helped us through the whole thing and Angela will be OK. I’m so happy,” Angela’s sister Isabel Hernandez said in a video posted to Facebook.
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