A 9-year-old California Latina girl is being hailed a young hero after she crawled out of a mangled SUV and walked two miles in the desert darkness to try and save her dad, authorities said.
Celia Renteria’s father ended up dying in his 2010 Ford Escape after he failed to negotiate a turn while he drove along a remote stretch of the Sierra Highway in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County early Sunday morning. The vehicle plunged 200 feet, overturning several times, and ended up in rugged terrain along the side of the canyon.
She was very courageous, being able to walk through the dark, through bushes and very rough terrain to get help for her dad. Had she just waited there, we probably would not have found her until the next day.
- Gil Hernandez, California Highway Patrol Officer
But brave little Celia did not let that stop her. She climbed up the rocky embankment at about 1 a.m., as the temperature dipped into the 40s, and desperately tried to find help for her father, who was pinned in the driver's seat, said California Highway Patrol Officer Gil Hernandez. When officers responded more than an hour and a half later, they found Alejandro Renteria, 35, dead.
"She was very courageous, being able to walk through the dark, through bushes and very rough terrain to get help for her dad," Hernandez said. "Had she just waited there, we probably would not have found her until the next day."
Celia managed to extricate herself and walk through rugged terrain to a nearby home, but nobody answered the door, the CHP said. Then she hiked up the embankment and along the road to a commuter rail station in nearby Acton where she flagged down a passing motorist at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
In all, she trekked 1 1/2 to 2 miles.
"She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment," CHP Sgt. Tom Lackey told KABC-TV. "It's very steep and it's brushy and there's also coyotes in the background."
A helicopter transported the girl to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She was treated for minor injuries including bumps and bruises and a cut on her face.
"She's in good condition," Lyndsay Hutchison, a hospital spokeswoman, said Monday. She could not provide any details, citing privacy laws.
On video shot by the family in the hospital, the girl said she was cold and hurt, according to KCBS-TV. She told her family she was saddened to learn her father did not survive the crash.
A coroner's spokesman said Monday that Alejandro Renteria was a resident of the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles.
Television footage showed crews using a long tow cable to remove the severely damaged black SUV from the canyon.
The CHP was investigating whether alcohol played a role in the crash.
Acton is a small town tucked in the mountains between Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.