Fearing she would drown, a firefighter held the head of a badly injured Stockton woman above the surface of the Russian River while numerous others cut and pried pieces of the wreckage of her car from her pinned body, according to emergency officials.
Nearby, a lengthy attempt had been made to save her young daughter, Leticia Caizba-Ramirez, but the 6-year-old girl was declared dead.
Good Samaritans, who moments before had been swimming and hanging out at the popular river spot below what’s now known as Frog Woman Rock, rushed to help after a Honda came over the embankment. It flipped and tumbled about 100 yards down before landing on its wheels, mostly submerged in the middle of the river.
They got the girl out, carried her to a spit of island nearby and started CPR, not stopping until firefighters had scrambled down the steep terrain and took over, Hopland Assistant Fire Chief Mitch Franklin said.
Once freed, the 30-year-old mother, Luz Ramirez-Marquez, was lifted out of the canyon by the Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter crew. She was transfered to a medical helicopter and taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with major injuries, including a broken pelvis and right arm, the CHP said.
The 1:30 p.m. crash happened Sunday as the two headed south on Highway 101, south of Hopland. Witnesses told officers the driver appeared to lose control and the car veered off of the road and disappeared over the side.
With reports of a car into the Russian River with someone trapped, the emergency response was big, involving firefighters from Hopland, Cloverdale and Cal Fire, two helicopters, CHP officers, Mendocino sheriff’s deputies and two ambulances.
First-arriving firefighters made their way down to the wreckage and found the bystanders working on the little girl. Nearby, the conscious woman was in excruciating pain with just her head above the water, the car crushed in around her and the steering column pinning her to her seat, Franklin said.
Franklin praised the effort, saying it was a tragic scene. “The bystanders did some amazing stuff, pulling that little girl out.”
The heavy equipment needed to cut through the car couldn’t be carried down easily or quickly and the sheriff’s helicopter crew made multiple trips lowering additional rescuers and the gear.
Once underway, the extremely difficult extrication took about an hour, Franklin said. Some wearing wet suits, and others in their fire turnouts, worked around the car and under the water.
Meanwhile, for a time, Franklin said, “The other rescuers were performing CPR on her daughter 20 feet away. It was horrible.”
The helicopter lifted the girl’s body as the effort continued to free the woman, who was trapped for more than two hours.
The helicopter crew then lifted the mother to the top where a Cal-Star medical helicopter waited.
The CHP Monday still was investigating the crash. Officials said alcohol didn’t appear to be a factor.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.