Jessica Rose Garcia missing from Yosemite since Friday
CERES, CA - The aunts of Yosemite worker Jessica Garcia are grateful and amazed their niece was able to survive three days alone in Yosemite National Park wilderness after an incredible fall.
Christina Etcheverry and Darlene Cunningham said they spoke with Garcia after her 12-hour spinal cord surgery Thursday at a Fresno hospital.
Garcia told them her terrifying ordeal began as a simple walk: one hour into the forest and one hour back to her room. Garcia was supposed to start her new job the next day the Wawona Hotel and wanted to get familiar with the area.
"At that hour mark, she decided to turn around, but that's where she lost her footing and slid," Etcheverry said. "The only thing she could think of was that it was a wet spot or soft spot there, because the second she turned around, she was sliding down the hill."
Garcia slid down only a few feet at first, but landed on her hip. She tried to pick herself up, but her next step would be a near fatal one.
"She tried to get up and there was a drop off," Etcheverry explained. "And from what we understand, she fell 35 feet down."
Garcia broke her pelvis and femur, and suffered a compressed spine and broken vertebrae that left her partially paralyzed laying on the bank of the river.
"Injured, she was able to pick herself up and take cover under a bush," said Etcheverry, who said Garcia moved by using only her arms.
Garcia had her cell phone, but there was no signal to call for help. She had a water bottle and a lollipop that she rationed for the next three days. Her aunts said she was in so much pain, that she was unable to call for help or wave to signal rescue crews.
"She heard the helicopters six times," said Etcheverry. "She heard them go over her, but she knew that the colors she was in, she was completely camouflaged in the green and brown uniform."
Her aunts said it was a miracle that Garcia's wallet and ID fell out of her pocket before she fell. When rescue crews came upon it, they knew where to look.
After three days of sleeping outdoors with no food and little water, Garcia was finally rescued by helicopter. Her injuries, however, are so severe that she underwent a 12-hour surgery Thursday to repair her spine. Her aunts hope their young niece who loves the outdoors will be able to walk again.
"As far as we know, the surgery went great," said Etcheverry. "The family is with her now. And it's just waiting now to see how much feeling does she have left."
They said Garcia has intentions of making a cake for her rescuers when she is able to leave ICU.
Garcia was not on-duty at the time of her accident. Her family set up a trust to help with Garcia's mounting medical bills.
Donations could be made to any Bank of the West branch at the FBO Jessica Rose Garcia fundraiser.