PORTLAND, Ore. — As their mother lay dead in the middle of the night, a 4-year-old girl dragged her seriously injured younger sister from a crashed car and the two huddled under a blanket — and waited.
With the mangled car stuck deep in the woods, and no skid marks on the two-lane highway, the crash site was nearly impossible to detect.
The sisters apparently were alone in the frigid woods more than eight hours before two commercial fishermen spotted a big gash in an alder tree along State Highway 401 between Astoria, Ore., and Naselle, Wash., on Wednesday morning.
Kraai McClure and Scott Beutler had a feeling something was wrong. Beutler went into the brush and signaled McClure to alert authorities.
The wrecked car was a few hundred feet from the road and the girls were about 20 feet from it, scared and confused. "They could say their names but were totally in shock," McClure said.
The Washington State Patrol said the girls' mother, 26-year-old Jessica Rath of Astoria, probably was asleep when she veered off the road and hit the tree shortly after midnight. She died at the scene.
The 2-year-old, who had serious leg injuries, was flown to a Portland hospital. The 4-year-old was treated at an Astoria hospital and released. The girls' father, Keaton Huff, declined interview requests.
McClure praised 4-year-old Aryanna. "She saved her sister," he said. "She was sharp enough. I don't know how she did it or anything else, but something was watching over those little girls."