An 18-month-old San Diego boy dubbed “Miracle Baby” by loved ones is now being cared for by family members, one day after he survived a deadly, high-speed rollover crash that claimed his mother’s life.
With only a few scratches on his head after the vehicle he was in plunged 150 feet down an embankment, baby Riley was home with uncle Jonny Dewitt on Thursday, as well as his aunt and grandmother. The boy was waddling around and appeared healthy.
The family calls the boy “Miracle Baby” after he survived a crash along Interstate 8 in Alpine, near Tavern Road. His mother, identified by family members as Lindsey Michelle Woods, 21, was driving a Jeep Cherokee at approximately 70 mph when she lost control of the vehicle and swerved off the freeway, California Highway Patrol officials said.
Woods died at the scene from obvious fatal trauma, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office reported.
Riley and a male passenger described by Woods’ family as an "acquaintance" survived the crash. The man sustained life-threatening injuries and was hospitalized.
Riley was unharmed, except for a few scrapes, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
The CHP said Riley was secured in a safety car seat in the middle of the backseat at the time of the rollover crash.
The tot's family credits the car seat for saving Riley’s life. They want others to use his sister's story as a reminder to always secure children into their car seats.
“If you really love your kid, buckle him in,” he said. "Lives can be spared."
DeWitt said his sister was a great mother to Riley. Having Riley completely “turned her life around,” he said,
"She started doing everything right [after Riley was born.] She was my baby sister," DeWitt told NBC 7. "She was struggling [to raise him] on her own, and making the best life for her kid. She read to him, gave him a bath every night and made sure he was in a warm house every night."
Woods’ best friend, Jessica Bauman, said Woods was an incredible person who worked hard to provide for her young son.
“She was the most caring, beautiful, loving, smart person in the world. She was an amazing mother, best friend, sister, daughter – everything. She didn’t deserve this,” said Bauman. "I really miss her."
She said Riley’s survival is nothing short of a miracle, and the boy will serve as a constant reminder of her late friend.
“At least we get part of Lindsey, at all times. We get to help raise him and be there for him,” she said.
The fatal accident remains under investigation, but CHP officials said speed was a major factor.
DeWitt visited the site of the crash Thursday and couldn't believe his nephew lived through the horrific accident in such rugged terrain.
“I didn’t realize how severe it was until I got here. I would definitely say I am in complete disbelief and there’s only one reason, and that is that God has a plan for [Riley’s] life and I’m going to raise him to be that way – to look to God – because there is a reason why he was spared,” said DeWitt.
Following the crash, Woods, Riley and the other passenger became stuck inside the wreckage. Good Samaritans ran to help the surviving victims. About a half hour later, the man and Riley were safely extricated from the vehicle.
"The baby was calm. The baby was healthy," witness Terry Ulmer said. "The baby seemed intact and pretty responsive."
Though Ulmer said he was able to tell the man that the baby boy was okay, he regrets not being able to talk with the child’s mother before she passed to tell her the baby was unscathed.