LOS ANGELES - Braving the cold and of howling coyotes, 9-year-old Celia Renteria was certain her father was still alive when she crawled out of a steep Southern California canyon and walked in the desert darkness to summon for help after a rollover crash.
With temperatures dipping into the 40s, she hiked through rugged terrain to a nearby home. No one answered. Then she hiked up the rocky embankment and along the remote highway to a commuter rail station where she flagged down a passing motorist early Sunday.
When officers responded, they found Celia's father, Alejandro Renteria, 35, dead. He was pinned in the driver's seat.
In all, she trekked 1½ to 2 miles.
"She was very courageous, being able to walk through the dark, through bushes and very rough terrain to get help for her dad," said California Highway Patrol Officer Gil Hernandez
The Renterias' 2010 Ford Escape was launched about 200 feet down into the canyon along an isolated stretch of the Sierra Highway in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County at about 1 a.m. Sunday, the CHP said. The vehicle flipped several times.
Authorities said Celia managed to free herself from the wreck to find help. She finally found a passing motorist near Acton, a small town between Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.
A helicopter airlifted the girl to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She was treated for minor injuries including bumps and bruises and a cut on her face.
"She's in good condition," Lyndsay Hutchison, a hospital spokeswoman, said Monday. On video shot by the family in the hospital, the girl said she was cold and hurt, according to KCBS-TV. She told her family she was saddened to learn her father did not survive.
The girl's caregiver, Consuelo Amador, told the station the child didn't panic and turned off the car's engine after she smelled gasoline.
"They were really close, and that's what hurts me the most," the girl's sister, Amber Mejia, told KCBS.