SNELLING -- Those who have seen Amanda DeRosa's pickup say there's no way anyone should have made it out alive. But three fishermen who turned instant Good Samaritans snatched the 19-year-old college student from certain death as she lay trapped inside the smashed and burning truck near Snelling.
DeRosa is due to be released this morning from the Community Campus of Mercy Medical Center Merced where she was taken after the 1:15 p.m. single-vehicle wreck Sunday on Snelling Road south of Robinson Road.
Her father, Jason DeRosa of Paicines, is especially grateful for the actions of anglers Wade Chapman and Ryan Crevolin of Madera and Michael Goodwin of Merced.
A student at Columbia Junior College near Sonora, DeRosa was listed in stable condition Monday with a compound fracture of her right leg, first and second-degree burns on her legs, back and arms, facial lacerations and plenty of bruises, her father said.
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"I'm ecstatic. They (rescuers) deserve all the recognition in the world. The truck was completely destroyed; there's nothing left. It doesn't look like anybody would survive it," Jason DeRosa said.
Goodwin said he has a son and daughter DeRosa's age and is glad everything worked out for the best. He said he has been in four accidents himself and the guys who do rescues for a living are the real heroes.
"We're just ordinary people, dads and fishermen. We couldn't have left her. I thank God; the big guy upstairs helped us. I'm glad we were there," Goodwin said.
Officer Christina Wills of the California Highway Patrol said DeRosa was very lucky. She would certainly have burned to death if the men had not stopped to help. Her 1991 Toyota pickup overturned several times and landed upside down wedged in a small ravine, its top flattened.
"She was dazed and didn't know what happened. It (accident) knocked her for a loop and the truck was pretty smashed down. The interior opening was less than a foot," Wills said.
Chapman said his cousin Goodwin and Crevolin had been bass fishing since
6 a.m. at Lake McClure and were headed back to Merced when the DeRosa pickup veered into his lane. He thought a head-on accident was imminent but DeRosa overcorrected back into her lane, the truck spun 180 degrees and plunged over the embankment on the right side of the road.
"I'm happy we were there. It sure was damned close but it worked out. We were trying to get her out but the seat belt was mangled and wouldn't come loose. There are a lot of things you think about afterward," Chapman said.
Chapman said it took about 90 seconds to run back as fast as he could to his truck and boat, frantically searching for a knife to cut the safety belt trapping DeRosa. Crevolin said he helped pull DeRosa out of the truck and was trying to hold her fractured right leg still as they brought her back up to the road.
"It was pretty hectic. God was on our side. Anybody would have done that," Crevolin said.
DeRosa said his daughter is taking basic education courses at Columbia Junior College and is thinking of majoring in forestry. He said she was heavily sedated Monday and her leg won't be set until next Monday. He plans to take her to their home in Paicines, about 20 miles south of Hollister, to recuperate.
Wills, the CHP officer, said DeRosa was northbound on Snelling Road while entering a curve in the road. Her truck suddenly veered into the opposing lane and overcorrected as it re-entered the northbound lane. DeRosa lost control of the pickup as it slid sideways, traveling off the east edge of the road and down a dirt embankment.
Wills said alcohol was not a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation.
DeRosa's truck first started smoking and Chapman noticed flames coming from the engine compartment. In a few seconds, the truck caught fire and soon was engulfed in flames.
Chapman, a Fresno County equipment operator, said he hadn't taken his boat out in several months and was preparing for an upcoming fishing tournament. He planned to visit DeRosa on Monday night in the hospital.
Kelly Bauer is a Snelling volunteer firefighter and responds to numerous car accidents in the remote country area near her home. When she arrived Sunday on the scene, DeRosa was out of the truck and the ambulance had just pulled up. She ended up directing traffic around the accident scene.
"I know it is a miracle. There is no way that girl would have lived if they hadn't moved as quickly as they did. I see it quite often; nobody wants to get involved," Bauer said.
Bauer found DeRosa's high school ring nearby, slightly singed but intact. Her cell telephone burned up in the fire along with a change purse full of coins.
Battalion Chief Brian Neely of CalFire/Merced County Fire Department said the pickup fire spread to about five acres of dry grass. Three fire engines and 10 firefighters extinguished the fire in short, sparse grass, with recent rains inhibiting the spread of the fire. No structures were threatened.