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Fishermen find sisters under blanket after crash

How did two fishermen find sisters on the side of a road early in the morning in Oregon? One saw a notch in a tree and his first responder instincts kicked in, allowing the fishermen to find the sisters, cold and alone after their mother crashed their vehicle and died earlier that morning. 

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Fishermen find sisters: Kraai McClure, 35, left, and Scott Beutler, 32, stand in front of the boat they fish out of in Astoria, Ore., Thursday Feb. 21, 2013. They found the crash site where a mother died and the two children survived.

Associated Press

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A 4-year-old Oregon girl dragged her seriously injured younger sister from a car crash that killed their mother. With the mangled car stuck deep in the woods, and no skid marks on the highway, the crash site was nearly impossible to detect and the girl huddled with her sister under a blanket – and waited.

"She saved her sister," said Kraai McClure one of two fishermen who discovered the crash site on a hunch after noticing a gash in a tree along State Highway 402 between Astoria, Ore., and Naselle, Wash. "She was sharp enough. I don't know how she did it or anything else, but something was watching over those little girls." 

Authorities estimate the sisters were alone in the frigid woods for several hours early Wednesday as many motorists drove past the hidden wreck.

The girls finally got help after two commercial fishermen spotted what appeared from a distance to be a basketball-sized gash in an alder tree along State Highway 401 between Astoria, Ore., and Naselle, Wash. Mr. McClure and Scott Beutler travel the two-lane road frequently, and had a gut feeling something was wrong.

The men slowed down, discussed the situation, and decided to turn around and go take a look. McClure said he called 911 to see if there had been any reports of a wreck during the night. There weren't.

Mr. Beutler, who was a first responder when he lived in Mississippi, went into the brush and signaled McClure to alert authorities.

"I don't know exactly what told us to turn around, but I'm just really thankful we did," McClure said Thursday.

The men spotted the wrecked car a few hundred feet from the road. Nearby were the two young girls, scared and confused. "They could say their names but were totally in shock," McClure said.

The Washington State Patrol said the girls' mother, 26-year-old Jessica Rath of Astoria, probably was asleep when she veered off the road and struck the tree shortly after midnight. She died at the scene.

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