PLACER county (CBS13) — Jacob Howland says he used to ride around the twisting gravel road called Yankee Jim Road near Colfax when he was younger. Now, this same road brings up a darker set of memories for him.
“Kids. Dumb choices. Drinking and driving,” Howland said.
Howland’s 16-year-old daughter and stepdaughter were among the five people in an SUV that California Highway Patrol and Cal Fire said likely blew a tire before it went off of an embankment and crashed an estimated 200 feet below.
“I broke down and I told my buddy, ‘Dude, there’s nothing but cliffs out there,’ I just started bawling. I thought they were dead,” Howland said.
Cal Fire told CBS13 all five people in the SUV were thrown from the vehicle and lived.
“How they survived I am not sure,” Cal Fire Captain Chris Baldoni said. “It was definitely a miracle.”
Baldoni said it took a lot of manpower to get the rope rescue underway, and there were some challenges pulling the victims up to safety.
“I’ve never had an incident where there were four critical patients where you were unable to see from the roadway that we had to extricate almost blind,” Baldoni said.
The fire captain said communication was also an issue with the rope rescue. He said the place where the SUV wrecked was a dead spot for their radios.
They had to essentially play a game of telephone to communicate how and where they needed resources to pull off the rescue.
Following the rescue mission, the 20-year-old driver of the SUV was arrested on DUI charges.
Although the victims are alive, Howland says his daughter still has a tough road ahead.
“She broke her lower spine, her pelvic bone and crushed her hip bone,” he said.
Howland said he wants people to realize that just one drink could change someone’s life forever.
“I know kids make mistakes. I don’t wish any ill intentions for [the driver],” Howland said. “But just to all of you kids out there, do not drink and drive. Accidents happen and sometimes you can’t take them back.”