Three teenagers had an emotional reunion Saturday with the rescuers who saved their lives after their car tumbled 75 feet off a Chatsworth cliff in October 2016.
Justina Hernandez pulled over to the side of Woolsey Canyon Road thinking she could safely park there on October 29, 2016, with her two friends, Christina Cuellar and Carlos Luna, in the car.
Soon after they stopped, the teens heard gravel giving way. Justina felt her vehicle begin to slide off the roadway, and she told her friends to "hold on."
Within a few seconds, the car tumbled over the side of the cliff, eventually stopping at the canyon's bottom, more than 75 feet below the roadway.
"I remember landing on top of them," Cuellar said. "It was a big dog-pile. Justina and Carlos were covered in blood, and they were both unconscious."
Operating in extreme darkness, it took 15 rescuers from multiple agencies three hours to rescue all the teenagers. They airlifted Hernandez, who had a fractured skull, to the hospital while using a rope system to rescue her friends.
Malibu Search & Rescue technician John Thompson believes the work his team did that night saved their lives.
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"What could happen is being stuck, calling for help, and there's no one there," Thompson said.
Saturday, almost a year after the crash, the three got to meet the men and women who were there for them. At an emotional press conference held at the scene of the accident, Hernandez, Cuellar and Luna got the chance to thank the rescuers for saving their lives.
"I have grown from this traumatic event and learned to appreciate and enjoy every moment I have in this life," said Hernandez. "To you all: Every single one of you are my hero, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you."
"We wouldn't have had the opportunity to continue our dreams and be here," Cuellar added. "So thank you for all you do."
Capt. Josh Thai of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's station also thanked the rescuers for their time and efforts.
"On behalf of the Malibu/Lost Hills station, I want to express our strong support of our Malibu Search & Rescue Team, whose members dedicate their time to save lives," he said. "Hats off for their great work and participation in the rescue of these three fine folks."
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue (SAR) Team members are Reserve Sheriff's deputies who volunteer their time to help others for $1 a year. They partner with sheriff's civilian volunteers who volunteer for free, according to the LA County Sherifff's Information Bureau.