Girl, 16, escapes as car sinks into Feather River
BELDEN — A 16-year-old girl escaped possible drowning Sunday afternoon by getting out through the trunk of her Ford Mustang as it sank in about 10 feet of frigid water in the Feather River, just east of Chip’s Creek.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the girl was driving west on Highway 70 about 3:30 p.m. when a deer suddenly appeared in front of her. As she swerved toward a muddy shoulder, the deer moved into her path, and the impact shattered the windshield. The car then flew down an embankment and slid into the river, floating out about 40 feet before it quickly began to sink, nose first.
A motorist traveling behind her said he rounded a curve and noticed the rear end of the vehicle just starting to slip below the surface. Chico resident Randy Barclay said he was about to go in after the victim when she bobbed to the surface and dog-paddled to the shore.
Barclay and his passengers provided the girl with dry, warm clothing and put her into their heated vehicle until emergency personnel arrived. She was cold, but reportedly uninjured.
Barclay, 59, said the girl reported being trapped inside the Mustang when water shorted-out the electric windows. The mechanical trunk release was working, and she was able to get out by accessing the trunk through the fold-down rear seat, he said. “She told us there was a lot of stuff in the back seat she had to get out of the way, but didn’t panic,” Barclay said.
He said the girl identified herself only as “Rachael,” and authorities have declined to release her name. No one else was in the car. She was transported by the CHP to her father’s home in Williams, but gave her address as Sutter.
Barclay, returning from Reno with friends, said the girl’s survival was nothing less than a miracle. And he knows about miracles. Barclay survived a horrific explosion Feb. 13, 2001, which killed a co-worker, as the two men were cleaning out petroleum sludge tanks at a fuel distribution facility on the Midway. Barclay spent four months in a burn unit at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and was left permanently disabled from the accident. Despite that, he said he was ready to go into the water after the victim Sunday until she appeared able to swim to the bank on her own.
Barclay said he was relieved to hear the girl was the only person in the car. He said he looked for the deer, but couldn’t find it.