By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Four people suffered only minor injuries after their car plunged more than 150 feet into the Smith River this weekend.
"I'm astounded," said Terry McNamara of Search and Rescue. "I've been doing this for a lot of years, and the people in this vehicle ¬ó I don't know how they survived."
According to the California Highway Patrol, the driver of the 1994 Geo lost control of his vehicle while navigating a curve about a-quarter mile north of Neils Christiansen Bridge.
The driver, Kelyn Akuna, 19, suffered an abrasion to the forehead. The passengers, James Close, 19, Rebecca Payne, 19, and Steven Hardin, 20, all of Arcata, suffered various cuts and abrasions in the accident. McNamara said they all appeared to suffer from hypothermia, too.
McNamara said one of the people in the car managed to kick out a window for the group to make their escape.
"They still haven't found the car," he said yesterday afternoon. "That means it is totally submerged" and may have moved a ways downstream.
McNamara described the accident scene as a very precarious area above the river.
"I'd say it was about 165 feet total. The first 100 feet is very steep, but the last 50 feet or so was almost completely vertical. It was a challenging rescue."
According to the accident report, all the occupants were wearing seatbelts, and all were treated and released from Sutter Coast Hospital.
Also responding to the scene were Gasquet Fire Department, the Smith River Fire Department, and Del Norte Ambulance.