Hours after their mother died in an early-morning car crash in Southwest Washington Wednesday, a passerby discovered a 4-year-old keeping her critically injured 2-year-old sister warm with a blanket.
After both girls were taken to an Astoria, Ore., hospital for treatment, the 2-year-old was airlifted to Portland, said State Patrol Trooper Russ Winger.
The girls’ 26-year-old mother may have fallen asleep at the wheel before her car veered off of Highway 401 and into a tree, about 7 miles south of Naselle, Pacific County, Winger said. The mother had driven to the Hoquiam area to pick up her husband, a fisherman, but she wound up driving toward Oregon when she found out her husband’s boat was coming into Oregon instead, according to Winger.
The husband last spoke to her after midnight to tell her not to come all the way to pick him up.
Though the crashed vehicle wasn’t visible from the road, a driver stopped at the scene several hours after the crash this morning after noticing a damaged tree. The passerby eventually found the vehicle and the children. Winger said it’s likely the 4-year-old pulled her younger sister from the wreckage and had been trying to keep them both warm for hours before they were found.
“We’re lucky we had someone paying attention or we may not have found them for a long time,” Winger said. “Hypothermia could have set in if they were found any later.”