Family of 4 survives 250-foot plunge off icy AZ highway

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(Source: The Daily Courier) (Source: The Daily Courier)
Colleen Savage, driver of the vehicle. (Source: CBS 5 News) Colleen Savage, driver of the vehicle. (Source: CBS 5 News)
(Source: The Daily Courier) (Source: The Daily Courier)
(Source: The Daily Courier) (Source: The Daily Courier)

A northern Arizona woman was driving down Mingus Mountain near Prescott on Wednesday morning with her sister and two young nieces when it began snowing and she hit a patch of ice.

"I didn't know if we were going to make it out alive or not," said Colleen Savage of Tonalea. "I didn't know what was going to happen to us. I was scared."

The Department of Public Safety said Savage was only going about 15 mph in a 30-mph zone when she lost control coming out of a curve on Arizona Highway 89-A and plunged about 250 feet down a cliff.

"She said, 'Be careful; I love you guys; I don't want to lose you guys,'" 9-year-old Valerie Hernandez said of her mother, Clararina Hernandez, who was in the front passenger seat.

Valerie said her mom kept telling the family, as their car rolled as many as seven times, to relax and not tense up.

"My mom, she was right there," said Valerie. "She was helping me not fly out the window."

Amazingly, no one in the car was seriously hurt.

Even Valerie, who remained at Phoenix Children's Hospital for observation, only has bumps and bruises.

"She's extremely lucky, as was everyone else in the car," Dr. Heidi Dalton said.

Dalton said Valerie has a small dent or "ping-pong fracture" in her skull, which will heal.

"This may well just eventually pop back like when you dent your bumper," Dalton said.

Savage said the wreck totaled her car, and she only has liability insurance, so she's not sure what she's going to be able to do about transportation.

But what matters to her most is that she and her family survived - and she credits seatbelts for their safety.

"I'm lucky," she said. "We're all lucky. I'm glad that my sister and my nieces are here with me now."

Savage also said she's grateful to the three good Samaritans who stopped to help her family and stayed with them until paramedics arrived.

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