Although she is still recovering from injuries received after her vehicle plunged down a cliff off Angeles National Forest highway about four months ago, on Thursday Tracy Granger came back to the scene of the accident. She met with members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Montrose Search and Rescue Team and Air 5 to thank them for what they had done to rescue her. She also wanted to take a trip, this time with rope, harness and MSR support, to where her truck had come to rest that snowy and cold night in March.
On March 25, Granger was driving home from Pasadena, taking the Angeles Crest and Angeles National highways to her home in Juniper Hills like she had done so many times in the past. It was getting dark, there was some snow but she had been through the pass many times and had no worries – until she hit a patch of black ice.
She lost control as she came around a curve near mile marker 10.47, then went over the side plunging about 350 feet. It was a dark road, there was snow and she was in a white vehicle.
“I crawled out of the truck,” Granger said. “I could see lights from cars.”
Her first thought, she said, was to climb up to the road. But her injuries were too great. She tried climbing back into her truck but she couldn’t get back in, so she lay alongside the vehicle. And waited.
When she didn’t arrive home, her family contacted the LASD and members of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team and Air 5 were sent out.
“It had just snowed the day before,” said MSR member Jason Johnson.
On March 26, he was driving the path Granger was thought to have been taking. It was Johnson who saw the tire marks in the snow indicating the vehicle had gone over the edge.
“It was a white vehicle and there was snow. It was difficult to see the truck even from [the top of the cliff],” Johnson said.
But he did see something and went over the side. Team members Cindy England and Robert Sheedy then arrived.
“Jason had gone over the side,” England said. “He yelled to me, ‘She is still alive!’ I got the medical kit and followed him.”
Sheedy prepared a litter (rescue basket) and lowered it down. In the meantime, Johnson and England assessed Granger’s condition.
“She was responsive but confused,” Johnson said.
Johnson added Granger’s vehicle had landed upright with its front end facing the roadside of the cliff. It was up against a tree and the door she had crawled out of was about two feet off the ground. So she had crawled out then dropped.
Air 5 had been called immediately after Johnson found Granger. The helicopter arrived about 10 minutes later.
Dep. Mark Desmarteau was the Air 5 paramedic who was hoisted down to help Granger.
“She was in a deep hypothermic state. She had a head injury and was unconscious when I got to her, but she was making sounds,” Desmarteau recalled.
Granger had multiple fractures, contusions and lacerations. Her body temperature was about 85 degrees.
“But she did something we don’t see too often in these types of cases. She tried to save herself. She went past the pain,” he said of her getting out of her vehicle in an attempt to crawl up to the road. “She is a spunky woman.”
That spunk was evident as she put on the harness on Thursday and rappelled down the 350-foot cliff to the accident sight.
“This is something she wanted to do,” said Granger’s husband Lee.
He watched as she went down the cliff. She went with support from Sheedy, Johnson and England – those who had been there to rescue her. Coming back up, she had a remnant of clothing – part of a shirt she was wearing the night of the accident. It was still down there after all this time.
“I didn’t realize how dense the brush was at the point where I was,” Granger said of the accident scene. “I was just lucky. It was a horrible accident but the way it unfolded and the vehicle came to rest at the bottom … I was fabulously lucky. There was a large bush that stopped [the vehicle] and there was more to [fall].”
She thanked all those who helped her. She gave hugs to Sheedy, England and Johnson. And to MSR member Janet Henderson who works as an Emergency Room nurse at Huntington Memorial Hospital. Henderson was her nurse when Air 5 transported Granger.
“Thank you. I can’t say it enough, thank you,” she said to the MSR and Air 5 members. “They were telling me [what] it was like looking for me. It was like looking for a microbe in a haystack, not a needle.”
She added the team told her of their search and that the helicopters were also looking for her but because of the white snow, white vehicle and location in the trees, it was difficult to see Granger from the air.
“There was a whole team of people working together, but if not for Jason…,” Desmarteau said. “We were lucky he found her.”