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‘Life is incredible’: Woman whose car plunged off coastal cliff shares how she survived for 7 days

Angela Hernandez posted this photo of her in the hospital following her crash in Big Sur.
Angela Hernandez posted this photo of her in the hospital following her crash in Big Sur. Facebook

Angela Hernandez spent seven days bruised and battered at the base of a Big Sur cliff, drinking from a trickle of water, yelling for help and watching cars above drive by on Highway 1 before she was finally found by a California couple Friday, she shared in a post on Facebook on Sunday night.

The 23-year-old Oregon woman was driving her white Jeep Patriot from Portland to Southern California when she mysteriously disappeared and fell out of communication with her family, officials said. She was last spotted on a surveillance camera at a gas station July 6 south of Carmel along California’s Central Coast.

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At about noon Friday, July 6, she was in the final half of her drive to Southern California heading down Highway 1 when she swerved to avoid hitting a small animal, Hernandez wrote on Facebook. Her car plunged off the highway down a cliff near the Kirk Creek Campground at the south end of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

“I don’t really remember much of the fall,” she wrote. “They say I fell somewhere around 250 feet.”

“The only thing I really remember after that was waking up,” Hernandez wrote, detailing how she broke out of her car and swam to shore to sleep.

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When she woke up, “I saw nothing but rocks, the ocean, and a cliff that I knew I’d never be able to look over,” she wrote. “I could see my car not too far from me, half washed up on shore with the roof ripped off of it.”

Hernandez said that she spent the next few days walking up and down the beach, trying to find another person.

“I could see cars driving across the cliff and felt like if I could yell just loud enough, that one could hear or see me,” she wrote. “That’s all it would take to make it back to my family. Just one person noticing me.”

Hernandez said she found a 10-inch black hose that seemed to have fallen off of her Jeep, and she used that to drink fresh water she found dripping down from the cliffs. She made a routine out of walking the beach looking for higher ground, screaming for help and collecting freshwater in her hose, she wrote.

On her last day stranded on the coast, she saw a woman walking across the shore and thought she was dreaming.

The woman was Chelsea Moore, who was hiking along the beach with her husband, Chad Moore, when they spotted the wreckage of Hernandez’s white 2011 Jeep Patriot at the bottom of an oceanside cliff.

Chelsea Moore’s mother, Luanne Sandvik, told The San Luis Obispo Tribune that the Moores gathered a few items from the scene, including the Jeep’s license plate and an Americorps medal, to take to the campground and report to authorities.

Chad Moore said that, after they saw the wreckage of the car, “I was expecting to find dead bodies.”

But as they turned to walk back toward their campsite, Chelsea heard something. After a second, Chad heard it, too. When they turned around, they saw Hernandez.

“She was crying out for help with whatever voice she had left,” Chad said.

After figuring out that she’d been in the Jeep, he stayed with Hernandez while Chelsea ran up toward the campsite to get help.

“She’s super funny, great personality, able to laugh about the whole event,” Chad said. He gave Hernandez the Americorps medal and some of the other items they took from the crash site.

“It’s an absolute miracle she survived the carnage,” he said. “It was a terrible accident.”

Chelsea called for help and got a bystander to stay at the campsite and wait for authorities to arrive while she ran back down to Hernandez with supplies, including blankets and snacks.

“We’re so happy and blown away that we found her, that we were at that beach at that time and she happened to look up while we were walking by,” Chelsea said. “We’re so proud of her. She’s our hero.”

The Moores stayed with Hernandez until first responders arrived and took her to the hospital.

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Angela Hernandez sits with Morro Bay resident Chelsea Moore after she was found at the bottom of a Monterey County cliff in July. Courtesy photo

Hernandez was airlifted to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, according to SFGate. Twin Cities spokeswoman Krista Deans told The Tribune that no one named Angela Hernandez was registered at the hospital. She declined to provide further information.

“I couldn’t believe that they were even real. I couldn’t believe that we had finally found each other,” Hernandez wrote of her rescuers.

Isabel Hernandez, Angela’s sister, started a GoFundMe account for her sister while she was missing, to help with expenses related to trying to find her. But after Angela was found, Isabel wrote on the page that the money would go toward helping her sister.

“In her accident, she has lost everything. Including her car, which was her livelihood,” Isabel Hernandez wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Any little bit helps, it will all be going to my sister who lost so much and gained so much all in one time.”

As of Monday morning, the GoFundMe had raised $4,345 of a $10,000 goal.

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The wreckage of Angela Hernandez's white 2011 Jeep Patriot rests in the water line Friday on a Big Sur beach. Courtesy of Chelsea Moore

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Angela Hernandez, 23, who had been missing since July 6, was found Friday night near Highway 1 in Big Sur, California. The Oregon woman was found near the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road area of Hwy. 1. Monterey County Sheriff's Office

On Saturday, Isabel Hernandez wrote on Facebook: “My sister is alive, she’s talking and she’s still trying to come to understanding everything. It’s not going to be an easy recovery. And I truly hope nobody thinks she will just be OK.”

“This is a process, and something that will take time and I hope everyone will have patience for her and her recovery,” she continued.

Angela Hernandez said she suffered a brain hemorrhage. “The crash had also caused me to fracture 4 ribs, break and fracture both collar bones, have a lung collapse, rupture blood vessels in both eyes, and experience intense sunburns on my hands, feet, and face,” she wrote.

“But at the end of the day, none of that matters. I feel like I have everything I’ve ever wanted,” she wrote. “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.”

“I don’t know, you guys, life is incredible.”

Drone footage shows a birds-eye view of the Highway 1 construction across the Mud Creek Slide on the Big Sur Coast in California. Caltrans announced on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, that they expect to open the road by near the end of July.

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