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By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
An 11-year-old girl drove a car over a steep embankment Friday, ejecting her four passengers, one of them a 3-year-old boy.
California Highway Patrol is still investigating why the 11-year-old was driving the vehicle in the first place, when two adults ¬Ė one of them her father ¬Ė were in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
"The father gave the 11-year-old keys to drive the vehicle," California Highway Patrol Officer Don Bloyd said. "She had her father's permission to drive."
However, Bloyd did not release information as to why the father allowed his daughter to drive the vehicle.
The girl was driving west on California State Hwy. 169 near Klamath around 6 p.m. Friday when she failed to negotiate a curve and lost control of the vehicle. She hit another car coming from the opposite direction and continued over the edge of a steep embankment, rolling the vehicle several times.
The girl, who was wearing her seat belt, stayed in the vehicle while her four passengers were ejected. Arlen Charles, 36, April Rodriguez, 24, and two boys, 9-years-old and 3-years-old, flew from the vehicle and down the embankment.
Due to the steep slope, Del Norte County Sheriff's Search and Rescue needed to use a pulley system to rescue the accident victims.
"It was very steep. I'm guessing it was 150 feet down there," Search and Rescue Coordinator Terry McNamara said.
Rescue workers were lowered down the hill and brought each of the victims up one at a time using the pulley.
McNamara said the operation went smoothly, despite the magnitude and circumstances surrounding the accident.
"Any time you get something like that with five people in a car, with an 11-year-old driving ... that in and of itself is a little unusual," he said. "That they were all ejected and survived makes it a little unusual as well."
Charles, Rodriguez and the 3-year-old boy received major injuries including broken bones and lacerations, while the 9-year-old boy and 11-year-old driver suffered minor to moderate injuries, such as cuts and bruises. All five were transported to either Sutter Coast Hospital or Saint Josesph's in Eureka.
The driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident, Tisha White, 24, was not hurt and her vehicle suffered little damage.