A good Samaritan who helped a woman out of her SUV says she's lucky to be alive after her vehicle flew off a bridge in East County and fell 50 feet to a riverbed below.
The crash took place around 6 a.m on Wednesday on westbound state Route 52, between the borders of Santee and San Diego, just east of Mast Boulevard.
"There was a semi-tractor trailor and a passenger vehicle," said San Diego Fire Rescue battalion chief Dave Seneviratne. "Due to the impact, the passenger vehicle went over the side of the freeway, and it ended up in a creek underneath, in the riverbed."
Fortunately for the driver of the Nissan Rogue, the San Diego River was shallow at that point and the SUV ended up on its passenger side, keeping her out of the water.
Good Samaritan William Sarmiento drove up to the bridge not long after the crash.
"I saw someone looking over the edge and frantically calling, I assume, 911, so I got out of my truck, walked over and looked and saw the red [SUV] on the bottom," Sarmiento.
Sarmiento and two others went to the end of the bridge, jumped over the embankment and rushed down to help the woman.
"She was still inside," Sarmiento said about the woman, who he described as being in her mid- to late-20s. "Seat belt had got stuck, locked up on her and her legs were in a kind of weird position. All of the doors wouldn't open. [The SUV had come to a rest] on its passenger side, so we went in there, just talked to her, let her know it was ok, water wasn't rising."
The fact that the SUV ended it up on its side didn't escape Sarmiento.
"Thankfully, we were just saying, she fell on the passenger side, 'cause if it was on the driver's side, that water would have been up to her head … and who knows what would have happened to her?" Sarmiento said. "We're just happy she's ok."
After crawling out of the SUV, the woman got to her feet and was able to walk on her own, Sarmiento said.
Seneviratne said the driver was treated on scene by paramedics from the Santee Fire Department and brought to a local hospital.