Angie Spencer recuperates with the aid of daughter Jadin after an accident outside of Jordan Valley last week. (Submitted photo)
By John L. Braese
JORDAN VALLEY – Angie Spencer was trapped, injured, and could only listen as nighttime traffic unaware of her predicament passed along U.S. 95.
Spencer had been on her way to her remote Arock home with her two children when her Explorer veered off the road, careened down an embankment and rolled. The rig came to a stop on its side in a dry creek bed.
When she regained consciousness, she couldn’t see anything. She heard no sound from her children from the back seat. She reached back and touched her 8-year-old daughter Maci. She then touched her daughter, Jadin, 5.
What ensued was a long night with many heroes reacting to a serious accident on one of the most remote stretches of highway in Malheur County.
Spencer had taken her children to Boise on that Monday, March 6, for a medical appointment for Maci, who has a rare heart condition that requires regular medical care. Afterward, Spencer shopped and then started the 100-mile run back home. The road was icy, it was getting dark, and it was snowing.
About 7:30 p.m., a few miles west of Jordan Valley, a vehicle crossed into her lane, Spencer recalled.
She said swerved to the right to avoid a collision, hitting the gravel on the side of the road before turning back to the left in an attempt to recover.
From that point on, the mother of two remembers only pieces of the next hours.
“We started to slide and I put my arm back to protect my kids in the back seat,” she said from her home, where she is recovering from her injuries.
She calculates the crash left her unconscious 10 to 15 minutes.
“The next thing I remember, I woke up and my children were not crying. I could not see anything, and I could feel the gashes on my face.”
She said she reached back and “could feel the little one, but could not find the older one.”
She finally felt both and worked to undo their seatbelts. Then she tried to get out, but she couldn’t get windows to roll down. She tried kicking out the windshield. She managed to force open the front passenger door, climbed out, and got her 5-year-old out. The door then closed and she couldn’t reach Maci.
“Mom, I broke my collar bone,” Maci calmly reported to her mom.
Bleeding from head injuries, Spencer crawled up the bank to the road, flagging down a couple in a white flatbed pick-up, she said.
“I remember the woman racing down the hill to our car. I told them I needed something to get the door unstuck,” Spencer said.
The man used an iron bar to pry open the rig while the woman with him scooped up Jadin to get her up the bank and out of the cold.
By then, another driver, Linda Andrew of Boise, had stopped the scene. She saw the woman with Jadin and heard her say, “There’s another kid in the car.”
Andrew stood on the side of the ravine and tossed one end of a tow strap down. The 8-year-old, finally rescued from the Explorer, grabbed ahold and Andrew pulled her to the highway.
Andrew loaded Spencer and the two girls into her vehicle and headed for Jordan Valley in what she said was the “longest drive in my life.”
“I somewhat remember Linda driving us into Jordan Valley, but I could not open my eyes,” Spencer said. “I was just so happy my girls were okay.”
On the way into town, Andrew said she tried to get her passengers to be calm. Maci, the 8-year-old, complained of pain in her chest. Andrew said she coached her through breathing exercises.
A half hour later, they arrived in Jordan Valley and Andrew used the phone at Mrs. Z’s gas station to call for help.
A local volunteer medic arrived, and an ambulance showed up about a half hour later and then a second one. The girls were loaded into one ambulance, and Spencer went in the second for the run to Boise.
They were met at truck scales on the Idaho side of the border by two Life Flight helicopters, one from Ontario and one from Boise, that flew the injured family to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise. They were treated and released the next morning.
The girls were scheduled to return to school last Monday.
Andrew reflected later that passing motorists likely wouldn’t have seen the wreck. “They were a good 20 feet down,” she said.
She said she once trained as a certified nursing assistant but it was her college work in veterinary medicine that she applied to help the family that night.
“I was just so glad I was there,” Andrew said.
She and Spencer have stayed in touch, in part to try to identify the first couple that stopped. Despite postings on Facebook, no one has been able to name the couple.
“The woman was small because I remember thinking she could not haul my child up the hill and she just zipped right up that hill. I really want to find them and thank them. They did so much for us,” Spencer said.
Have a news tip? Email news @ malheurenterprise or call John L. Braese at 541-473-3377.