By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
A single skid mark and a 150-foot gouge through the forest are all that remain of an in which an 11-year-old girl drove her family over the edge of a steep embankment on California Hwy. 169 last week.
On Thursday, wrecking crews from Northcrest Auto Center hoisted the wreckage from its resting place near the banks of the Klamath River.
"It's miraculous anyone came out of that alive," Steve Clay, the owner of Northcrest Auto Center, said. "It's a long way down there."
Last Friday, the 11-year-old girl was driving westbound on State Hwy. 169 when she lost control of the Bronco, hit another car and rolled several times down a steep 150 embankment. Her passengers, Arlen Charles, 34, April Rodriguez, 24, a 9-year-old and a 3-year-old were all thrown from the vehicle. Only the girl, who was wearing her seatbelt, stayed in the automobile.
"I think you can see why everyone was ejected," Clay said as he pointed to the battered vehicle coming up the steep slope, "there's no roof."
Del Norte County Search and Rescue used a pulley system to retrieve the accident victims last week, but over the weekend rumors started to circulated about a sixth passenger a 1-year-old child who would have been stranded for two days.
"She (Rodriguez) thought the baby was in the car," said Terry McNamara, head of Search and Rescue, "but it wasn't, it was just with relatives ... Everything was just rumors and innuendos."
Why the girl was driving the vehicle when her father and another adult were passengers in the car remains unclear as the California Highway Patrol continues to investigate the incident and determine whether or not there will be any criminal charge brought against the adults in the vehicle.
"The accident reports are in review," Officer Don Bloyd said. "There will be charges, but I don't know what for yet."
He said preliminary charges in the accident could include the unlawful loaning of a vehicle to an unlicensed driver.