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Woman Survives After Driving Off Big Sur Cliff

An Oregon woman continues to recover in the hospital after driving off Highway 1 in Big Sur. Angela Hernandez, 23, spent seven days 200 feet down a cliffside before being rescued.

Krista Almanzan: So where and how did this happen?

Erika Mahoney: Angela was driving from Oregon down to Southern California. On July 6th, she was passing through Big Sur and she drove over a cliff near Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. She survived and now over a week later, recovering in her hospital bed, she wrote a long Facebook post detailing the crash. She swerved for a small animal and went over that 200-foot cliff in her Jeep. She says she doesn't remember the fall. She does remember waking up in her car with water around her legs and she used a tool to smash out the driver's window and she swam to the beach.

KA: And then she was stuck down there for seven days. Why did it take so long to find her?

EM: In her Facebook post, she says she could see cars driving up on Highway 1 and she was screaming for help. But the sound of the traffic and the ocean drowned that out. The Monterey County Sheriff's Office picked up the case on Wednesday and they were searching for her throughout Big Sur. Big Sur is notorious for fog and so the air search was very difficult. Then on Friday the 13th, Chelsea and Chad Moore happened to be looking for a place to go fishing and they came across the jeep and then they came across Angela. The Moores spoke with the television station KION out of Salinas. (Click here for KION's full interview)    Here's what they had to say along Highway 1 in Big Sur.

"And we turned around and Angela was right there in the rocks. Just looked like hell. But she was happy at the same time. She was really happy to see us and I, we asked her if like, 'Were you in the jeep?' And she said, 'that was my Jeep.' And at that point we just kind of like panicked with adrenaline, like 'oh my god,' you were in that car we just saw and you're alive,” the Moores said.

EM: And they immediately got help.

KA: So seven days, how did she survive that whole time?

She had a gallon of water in her car, but she couldn't get to it. So she did find a hose that had fallen off the car in the crash and she began searching for freshwater. She found some dripping from a moss plant on the cliffside and she used that hose to capture the water. Commander John Thornburg with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office says this isn't the first time they've responded to a car off the cliff but he says it's pretty remarkable she survived.

"Yes, especially considering the length of time that she was down there. You know, oftentimes we get these, but we get them the same day, we get them the same hour, we get them the moment they happen,” said Thornburg.

EM: And Angela survived for seven days on that beach.

KA: And so what's next for her?

Right now, Angela is recovering in the hospital. Some of her injuries include a brain hemorrhage; she fractured four of her ribs, her collarbones, and of course she got sunburned being out there for so long. She's happy to be alive and quoting directly from her Facebook page, she wrote, "I can't imagine that there isn't a bigger purpose for me in this life." And since that post, people have been commenting and wishing her well.

Angela's sister, Isabel Hernandez, started a Go Fund Me campaign to cover Angela's medical bills. 

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.