March 25, 2013

Girl, 9, walks to get help after crash kills dad

By CHRISTOPHER WEBER/The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Law enforcement officials praised the bravery and tenacity of a 9-year-old girl who crawled out of a mangled SUV at the bottom of a remote Southern California canyon and hiked nearly two miles to find help for her father, who was pinned in the driver's seat after a rollover crash.

Celia Renteria was sure her father was still alive when she climbed up the rocky embankment early Sunday, as temperatures dipped into the 40s, said California Highway Patrol Officer Gil Hernandez. When officers responded more than an hour and a half later, they found Alejandro Renteria, 35, was dead.

"She was very courageous, being able to walk through the dark, through bushes and very rough terrain to get help for her dad," Hernandez said. "Had she just waited there, we probably would not have found her until the next day."

The 2010 Ford Escape was launched about 200 feet down into the canyon along an isolated stretch of the Sierra Highway in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County about 1 a.m. Sunday, the CHP said. The vehicle overturned several times.

Celia managed to extricate herself and walk through rugged terrain to a nearby home, but nobody answered the door, the CHP said. Then she hiked up the embankment and along the road to a commuter rail station in nearby Acton, where she flagged down a passing motorist about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

In all, she trekked 1 1/2 to 2 miles.

"She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment," CHP Sgt. Tom Lackey told KABC-TV. "It's very steep and it's brushy and there's also coyotes in the background."

A helicopter transported the girl to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She was treated for minor injuries including bumps and bruises and a cut on her face.

"She's in good condition," Lyndsay Hutchison, a hospital spokeswoman, said Monday. She would not provide details, citing privacy laws.

On video shot by the family in the hospital, the girl said she was cold and hurt, according to KCBS-TV. She told her family she was saddened to learn her father did not survive the crash.

A coroner's spokesman said Monday that Alejandro Renteria was a resident of the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles. The CHP was investigating whether alcohol played a role in the crash.

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