Southland woman thanks live-saving good Samaritans


The highlight was her reunion with a Caltrans worker who came to her aid.

"I was extremely frightened," said Autumn Cooley. "It was like a nightmare come true."

Cooley says she'll never forget the frigid night of April 19. She had run out of gas along Highway 2. When she got out she started walking east, but she went past a road-closed sign into a snow drift.

That's when she slipped and fell down an icy ravine.

"Oh it was freezing," said Cooley. "I kept moving my arms; you know trying to keep as much as I could, trying to move my fingers because they were starting to become frostbitten as well."

The next morning she struggled up to the top of the hill, but because the road was closed she was all alone.

That is, until she saw a Caltrans work crew off in the distance trying to clear the snow.

"They couldn't see me but I could see the snow up in the air," said Cooley. "So I had to keep going, and finally made it over the hill and waved my hands like a crazy woman."

The Caltrans worker was using a snowplow to try to clear the highway when he thought he saw a bear off in the distance. But it wasn't a bear at all, it was the missing woman.

"So I just couldn't believe what I saw," said equipment operator Barry Morrison. "I thought what the heck was she doing out here."

Morrison hiked about 300 feet through a massive snowdrift to get to the missing woman and rescue her.

"I remember them coming to my aid," said Cooley. "They started taking their clothes off; Barry took off his Caltrans suit to keep me warm."

Cooley still suffers nerve damage, but she's alive. And if not for an alert Caltrans worker, she knows things might have been much different.

"I don't think I would be here today," said Cooley.

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