VERNONIA, Ore. (KGW) — First responders rescued a woman who drove off a road in rural Columbia County and hurtled down an embankment Friday night.
With thick brush nearly burying the location of the woman’s pickup, rescuers may not have found her but for an iPhone alert to dispatchers and a 911 call from a neighbor.
Ashly’s car went off the roadway on Timber Road, not far from Clear Creek Road near Vernonia. She was on her way home at the time of the crash. Her Toyota Tacoma ended up 30 feet down a steep embankment. She couldn’t climb up — but she did reach for her iPhone.
“I don’t know how I lived or anything, but it was amazing,” she told KGW on Monday. “What was even more amazing was that I had SOS on my iPhone. So I managed to do that and got out of the truck and I started screaming. Then I was so happy that they actually had people come and help me.”
Hailey Palmore with the Mist-Birkenfeld Rural Fire Protection District recalled receiving the prompt.
“Our dispatch center received a call — it wasn’t really a call, it was more like a notification from an individual’s Apple device that stated that they were possibly in a motor vehicle accident,” Palmore said.
She said crews from neighboring Vernonia set out immediately but were struggling to find the site of the crash. Then a neighbor who heard screams called 911.
“When I first got on scene, I couldn’t even see [the truck]. It was amazing that they found it,” the neighbor said. “It was such a tough place to have that happen, to be alone. We all felt for her because obviously it was a very scary thing to have happened.”
First, crews slid down to make sure Ashly was alright. Then rescuers used ropes and a basket to get her back up. Palmore said it was a tricky situation from start to finish.
“When they got up to the top of the hill, myself and some other people were able to get them over that crest. It was really a challenging call,” Palmore said.
Although Ashly’s Tacoma remains stuck, she couldn’t be more grateful for the tech, the neighbor who called and the teams who saved her.
“I’m alive,” she said. “You just got to be careful. And using that SOS on your smart phone, it comes in handy so well.”
Despite very spotty cell service in the area, the emergency message made it quickly to first responders. Fire crews said it’s worth figuring out how your phone or device can help you in an emergency. Palmore also recommended telling someone where you’re going, how you’re getting there and when you expect to arrive, especially if you’re driving on backroads at night.
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