People love to tell stories and who doesn’t love a tale with a happy ending? Incredible survival stories show how human extinct overcomes life’s worst-case scenarios when the S really does HTF.
Take, for example, Angela Hernandez. In July of 2018, the 23-year-old Californian was jolted back to consciousness by cold, salty ocean water rising over her knees. Her head was throbbing. After she touched it, she saw red blood on her hands.
Just a moment earlier, Hernandez was seated inside her 2011 Jeep Patriot SUV. She had been driving along the Golden State’s scenic coastal Highway 1 near Big Sur, heading south. A small animal crossed the road. When she swerved to avoid hitting it, she lost control and her vehicle plunged off a cliff — plunging 200 feet to the rocks below.
Hernandez had suffered a brain hemorrhage, fractured ribs, a broken collar bone, ruptured blood vessels in both eyes, and a collapsed lung in the fall.
Before her week-long ordeal was over, the hot sun had burned her hands, feet, and face.
After regaining consciousness, the resilient woman broke her window with a multitool, crawled out, swam to the beach, and passed out.
The next time Hernandez woke up after her horrific accident, she discovered she had lost her shoes but began walking the shore to find help:
“I could see my car not too far from me, half washed up on shore with the roof ripped off of it.”
The stranded driver walked for days. She could see cars passing above her on the clifftop road but the occupants couldn’t see her or hear her frantic screams.
Fortunately, Hernandez found drinking water in a nearby stream. As she chronicled on Facebook:
“I found a 10-inch black hose that seemed to have fallen off of my vehicle during the crash. It fit perfectly in the front pocket of my sweater, so I kept it there. I walked farther south down the beach than I ever had before and heard a dripping sound. I looked up and saw a huge patch of moss with water dripping down from it. I caught the water in my hands and tasted it. It was fresh!!!! I collected as much as I could in my little hose and drank from it for maybe an hour.”
Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal said rescuers began searching for Hernandez in Big Sur on Wednesday, July 11, after his office tracked her phone to Big Sur. A ground search was conducted on the same day but aerial searches were hampered by heavy fog.
On Friday, members of the California Highway Patrol, the Air National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, and volunteers with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office pitched in to find the missing driver.
After screaming for help day after day with salvation in clear view, Hernandez admitted “it would be a lie to say that things got easier as the days passed.”
On Day 7, two campers, Chelsea and Chad Moore from San Luis Obispo County, were scouting the beach for fishing spots and came upon the wrecked Jeep:
“They found no one inside, but began to gather items and removed the license plate so they could report it to police. As high tide snuck in around 6:15 p.m., the couple decided to leave a different way out.”
Hernandez had been sleeping, crumpled up on some rocks. She sat up and saw the shape of a woman. She thought she was dreaming again about rescue and recalled on Facebook:
“I screamed, ‘HEEELLLPPPPP!’ and then got up as quickly as I could and ran over to her. She was with a man and I don’t think they could believe their eyes. They acted so quickly. She ran down the beach and up a trail [to the campground] to go find help while the man stayed with me and gave me fresh water. He told me they were a married couple who loved the ocean and had been exploring when they had come across my destroyed vehicle. He pulled out some of my belongings from their backpack (some of the most important ones, I’m not even kidding). I couldn’t believe that they were even real. I couldn’t believe that we had finally found each other.”
Rescuers arrived with ropes to descend the cliff and evacuate Hernandez to a hospital aboard a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.
A year later, Hernandez was still recovering in the hospital.
“For her to survive with the injuries she had was amazing.”
“She’s very very lucky, I tell ya, someone was watching over her,” the Sheriff added.
Hernandez has an attitude of gratitude after her grueling experience and extensive injuries, writing:
“But, at the end of the day, none of that matters. I feel like I have everything I’ve ever wanted. 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’ve experienced something so unique and terrifying and me that I can’t imagine that there isn’t a bigger purpose for me in this life.”
The woman who cheated death remains upbeat:
“I don’t know, you guys, life is incredible.”
So are triumphant stories such as this one. Way to go, Angela Hernandez.