Debra Lopez was just trying to put out a cigarette.
But she was also traveling on a California highway at the time, and — in that instant — Lopez took her eyes off the road. Because of that, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports, Lopez couldn’t handle the curve on Highway 1, and her pickup truck plunged more than 100 feet down an embankment Feb. 7.
Days passed before she was seen again.
The 57-year-old Lopez had survived, and climbed back up to the highway on her own, and was soon in a hospital, recovering.
“There are some bumps and bruises, but all in all she’s in very good shape for what she went through,” Atascadero Police Sgt. Jason Carr told the newspaper.”It’s unbelievable.”
Lopez, who was wearing a seat belt at the time of the incident, found herself upside-down in the truck after it rolled down the bluff near Ragged Point, which is about four hours south of San Jose.
Lopez suffered bruised ribs and a head injury, the Tribune reported, but her medical issues weren’t bad, all things considered. She waited in the truck for a day, she told investigators, before climbing out through the broken windshield.
“I know where I climbed out, when I looked it was just almost straight down,” she told KSBY, an NBC affiliate. “I was even yelling out help, and no one could hear me, I was so far down.”
During the ordeal, Lopez drank rainwater to survive, the Tribune reported, and prayed the rosary over and over again each day. She found her way back to the road three days after the crash, Carr told the newspaper.
“Cars were right there, and I got up, and for a moment there were no cars, and I leaned down and I kissed the road,” Lopez told KSBY. “And I said ‘I’m going home.’ ”
She caught the attention of another motorist on the roadway and was taken to a local medical center for treatment.
Lopez told of the moment she was reunited with her husband of 30 years at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.
“He said, ‘What the heck happened?’ ” Lopez said. “I told him about the truck, and he says, ‘I don’t care about the truck.’ “
Here’s Lopez, describing the incident to a Tribune reporter: