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Good Samaritan, 16, helps save driver who crashed off Highway 1 cliff near Fort Ross

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David Estrada was driving to school Wednesday morning along a winding stretch of Highway 1 near Fort Ross when a white Mini Cooper ahead of him suddenly veered off the road, disappearing over the edge.

At first, the 16-year-old Timber Cove boy was stunned. But Estrada, who underwent emergency response training while participating in the Explorer program with his hometown fire department three years ago, quickly pulled over and began looking for survivors.

The car had rolled down a deep ravine around 8:20 a.m. just south of Fort Ross and landed on its roof about 100 feet from the roadway, suffering major damage. The driver, 76-year-old Daniel Boicelli of Gualala, was blinded by the bright morning sun and missed a bend in the road, said California Highway Patrol Officer David deRutte.

Several emergency officials credited Estrada, a junior at El Molino High School, with saving Boicelli. In an area with no cellphone signal and no other witnesses to the crash, Estrada flagged down cars to notify authorities, pulled Boicelli out and kept him calm until rescuers arrived.

“The crazy thing I keep thinking about all day is when you casually drive by, you couldn’t see down there,” Estrada said. “I thought if I didn’t drive by, no one might have seen him.”

The floor of the ravine was filled with dense poison oak shrubs and the ground was too steep to get Boicelli to safety without an airlift, said Erich Lynn, fire chief of the Timber Cove Fire Department.

Boicelli, who was paralyzed from a pre-existing injury, was safely lifted back to the highway by the Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter Henry 1 using a backboard and basket, said sheriff’s Lt. Andy Cash. He sustained only minor injuries but was transported to a Gualala health center for treatment.

Estrada’s training taught him to soothe victims and ask them questions. He learned Boicelli was driving to the Bay Area to visit his children, and since the crash, that detail stuck with the Timber Cove teenager.

“I’ve just been thinking about his family,” he said. “What if it was worse and he never got to see them?”

Authorities temporarily closed one lane on the highway so a tow truck could use a 400-foot cable to recover the car.

You can reach Staff Writer Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @YousefBaig.

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