Two 4-year-old twins survived a car crash that killed their father, then unbuckled themselves from their booster seats, crawled out of a broken window, and climbed up a steep, muddy embankment to get help.
The crash took place sometime after 6 p.m. Friday in the small town of Clinton, on Washington state's Whidbey Island. The 2017 Nissan Sentra hurtled about 100 feet down an embankment, and authorities said the girls' actions to get back to the road allowed them to be seen by a passing driver — likely saving their lives.
"This is miraculous," Washington State Patrol trooper Heather Axtman told BuzzFeed News, calling the girls' actions "brave and heroic."
Authorities are still investigating what caused the crash, but driver Corey Simmons veered to the right of the road for some reason, Axtman said, hitting several trees as the car went down the embankment.
Simmons, who was not wearing his seat belt, is believed to have died instantly. The twins, Rosaline and Aurora, were buckled in the backseat and suffered only minor injuries, Axtman said.
The two girls checked on their dad first, she said, and then climbed out of the car. It's not clear if they realized that their father had been fatally injured.
"They were just saying 'my daddy, my daddy' and knew something tragic had happened," Axtman said.
Axtman said it was about 40 degrees at the time, and it had recently rained. The area was dark, and Bob Galbreath Road, where the crash occurred, is not a well-traveled road, Axtman said. The wreck was not visible to other drivers because of the thick brush, and somehow the girls found the road instead of getting lost in the woods.
"It's the woods, and it's scary for little kids, and they overcame that fear," she said. "I mean, the bravery that they showed is what I can't get over."
The moment the girls reached the side of the road, a woman spotted and stopped to check on them.
"Literally at the right place at the right time," Axtman said. "Had that Good Samaritan not stopped, who knows when the next car would have come by."
The woman kept the girls, who were missing their shoes, warm in her car until a state trooper arrived on the scene, she said. They were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were treated for a bump on the head and a scratch on an arm, but they were released to their mother the same day.
"This situation could have been so different," Axtman said.
Esther Crider, the girls' mother, told the Seattle Times that on Friday, Simmons had helped her parents install an oven, then he picked up the twins from daycare, stopped at a convenience store for snacks, and headed home.
"Corey drove up and down that road every day for about five years," Crider said. "I don't know what happened."
Crider told the Times the two girls are still coming to grips with losing their dad. Just a few days ago, Simmons had taken the girls out to cut down a Christmas tree.
Simmons' family has since launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $10,000. The funds, according to the campaign, are meant to help with the cost of funeral services and to help the family.
“Everything we did, he tried to make sure the kids were having fun,” Crider said.