Skip to main content

9-year-old girl hikes through rough terrain to get help for dad after crash

From AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police: "She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment"
  • She walks to a house, then flags a motorist
  • Her father does not survive
  • "They were really close," her sister says

(CNN) -- When their SUV plunged off the side of a desolate California highway and landed 200 feet into a ravine, the little girl knew she had to do something to help her father who lay unconscious in the driver's seat of the overturned vehicle.

The girl, all of 9 years old, freed herself and crawled out of the window of the wrecked Ford Escape.

She smelled gasoline and turned off the engine.

And then she started walking, in pitch black darkness, through steep and forbidding terrain.

"She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment," California Highway Patrol Sgt. Tom Lackey told CNN affiliate KABC. "It's very black out here, very dark. It's very steep and it's brushy and there's also coyotes in the background."

The wreck took place about 1 a.m. Sunday on Sierra Highway in Acton, an unincorporated rural area in Los Angeles County.

Police told CNN the SUV careened off the road and rolled over several times before coming to rest upside down.

The girl noticed a light about 1,000 feet away and walked over to the home.

No one answered the door, police said.

So, she walked back to the mangled SUV to check on her father.

Then, police said, she hiked 200 feet up the embankment to the highway.

Her goal: to make it to the nearest lit area, a commuter rail station about a mile away.

There, she flagged a passing motorist, who called police.

But by the time officers reached the SUV, it was too late.

The father, 35-year-old Alejandro Renteria, had died of his injuries.

"They were really close. And that hurts me the most," Amber Mejia, the girl's sister, told CNN affiliate KCAL.

The pair was returning from a friend's house when the father failed to make a steep curve on the road, the girl told police. Police suspect alcohol played a role.

The girl, who suffered minor bruises, will remain under observation at a hospital until Tuesday.

Relatives said she was faring well, considering the circumstances.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT