The men said they have no idea what made them turn around and look into the woods, but two little girls are safe because of that gut feeling.
There were no skid marks, and the “mangled car” was so deep in the woods no one could see it from the highway. That is where two commercial fisherman, who according to the Associated Press stopped based on a “gut feeling” that something was wrong, found 4-year-old Aryanna Huff, and her 2-year-old sister Lylah huddled under a blanket near where their mother lay dead in the wreck. Washington State Patrol said that 26-year-old Jessica Rath, of Astoria, Oregon, had most likely fallen asleep behind the wheel while driving, causing her to veer off the road and hit a tree shortly after midnight on Wednesday, dying at the scene.
Kraai McClure and Scott Beutler travel State Highway 401 regularly. It is a two-lane highway that runs between Astoria, Oregon and Naselle, Washington. They were driving down that highway Wednesday morning around 8:30 a.m. when they “spotted what appeared from a distance to be a basketball-sized gash in an alder tree” a ways back from the road. The men slowed down while discussing the situation and decided they should turn around for a quick look. Both men had what they call a “gut feeling” that something just wasn’t right. McClure, who called 911 to see if there had been any accidents reported the night before and was told there were not said, “I don’t know exactly what told us to turn around, but I’m just really thankful we did.”
The men found the wreckage from the accident, with Rath’s body inside a few hundred feet from the road, but the dense overgrowth hid it from the view of passing motorists. Beutler, who has training as a first responder, found the girls scared and confused, huddled in a blanket in the brush nearby and told McClure to alert authorities. He said, “They could say their names but were totally in shock.” State Trooper Russ Winger told reporters they believe that 4-year-old Aryanna pulled her younger sister out of the wreckage and helped her to the spot where the fishermen found them. She also had the wherewithal to wrap them together in a blanket for warmth. Her sister, 2-year-0ld Lylah had severe injuries to her legs and was airlifted to a Portland Children’s Hospital. Trooper Winger said, “Keeping warm with the blanket was vital with temperatures in the low 40s. Hypothermia sets in very quickly with something like that. They could have very well not been found and died of exposure.”
The two men are being called heroes, but they both insist Aryanna is the real hero. McClur said, “She saved her sister. She was sharp enough. I don’t know how she did it or anything else, but something was watching over those little girls. It was amazing that the little 4-year-old — I have a little 4-year-old, too, she’s almost 5 — was able to get her little sister out and do that,” he added. “It just blows my mind that she could do that in that situation. I don’t know if she waited until morning, when they could see, but, you know, it just makes me want to cry.”
Keaton Huff, the girls’ father has declined all interview requests, and has instructed the hospital not to release any information on Lylah’s condition. Aryanna was treated at a hospital in Astoria and released later that day.