A 57-year-old woman says that her focus and faith allowed her to survive a “72 hour hell” after her truck plummeted 150 feet off of a California cliff, landing upside down on the terrain below. Debbie Lopez says the whole ordeal was the result of becoming momentarily distracted as she was putting out a cigarette. It would take Debbie a full 24 hours to get out of her mangled truck, but her journey to survival wasn’t over after that. Lopez would spend the next 48 hours slowly making her way up the cliff back to the main road.
The Tribune reports that Debbie Lopez was driving along Ragged Point bluff when she took her eyes off the road to put out a cigarette. With her eyes off the road, Debbie’s truck veered off the highway and over the side of the 150 foot cliff. Unfortunately for Debbie, the ravine that she landed in was not visible from the road; therefore, no one knew that the woman was trapped below.
When Debbie failed to return home from her quick trip to the store, her husband called police to report her missing. Police did not find any skid marks or debris on the road to indicate a wreck had occurred. Therefore, no one searched the ravine for the missing woman. Police say that Debbie was wearing a seatbelt and appears to have been suspended upside down for some time before regaining consciousness.
“She was wearing a seatbelt at the time and was suspended upside down for a time before regaining consciousness. She spent a day stranded inside the vehicle because of pain in her ribs before freeing herself.”
Debbie recounts with KSBY how she survived 72 hours in a personal hell, broken and battered, while traversing the large cliff.
“The truck just flew over and I could just feel myself flying down and hitting things I don’t know what I hit, and when I landed, I didn’t know I was upside down.”
Debbie says the pain in her ribs was so severe she could not bring herself to get out of the vehicle for a full 24 hours. Finally, she had the strength to release herself from her seatbelt and crawl from the wreckage. Getting out of the truck was just the first part of Debbie’s journey back home. Next, Debbie would have to find a way to make it back up the cliff to the highway above. Debbie says it took her a day and a half to make a game plan on the best method out of the ravine. With no water in her vehicle, she says she collected rain water from a storm in the wheel of her truck to drink. After assessing the situation and realizing no one could hear her screams for help, Debbie knew the only way out was up. Still suffering from injuries from the wreck, Debbie would make the 150 foot climb out of the ravine to the highway above, where a passerby would stop and call for assistance.
Atascadero police Sgt. Jason Carr told the Tribune that Lopez used her faith as a means of survival during the difficult times.
“Carr said Lopez told him she recited the rosary 14 times a day and thought of her family worrying about her to motivate her for the long and dangerous trek to safety. Lopez began her climb out of the ravine and up the bluffs on Monday, Carr said, finally reaching the highway about 5 p.m. Tuesday, where she was picked up by a motorist.”
[Image Credit: Missing Person’s Poster from Atascadero Police Department]