A 16-year-old girl from Oakhurst was in critical condition Saturday night after she lost control of the SUV she was driving and overturned into China Creek off Road 426 near Road 425b. On Sunday, officials with California Highway Patrol confirmed the girl, identified by family as Shania Costella, died from her injuries.
Around 10:50 p.m., initial reports came in that a girl was running down Road 426 towards Highway 41 screaming for help.
Emily Burtnett, 23, was the first person to stop and dialed 911. Burtnett said the girl told her she was riding in the SUV when it hydroplaned and crashed off an embankment, leaving her sister trapped inside as it sank into the creek.
“She just came down the street screaming,” Burtnett said. “When you have that adrenaline, you can do anything ... I don’t know. It’s awful.”
Officer Paul Varner confirmed the female who escaped the crash was the driver’s sister and 17, also from Oakhurst. He said the two were traveling eastbound on Road 426 when the driver lost control for unknown reasons and crashed into the creek.
Emergency responders from CHP, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, and Cal Fire quickly entered the rapid waters to remove the girl from the vehicle and lift her to safety.
The 17-year-old who escaped was walking and vocal with first responders at the crash. Both sisters were transported to Valley Children’s Hospital.
Varner had words of advice for drivers during the major storm impacting the state and Eastern Madera County.
“When you’re driving in inclement weather and in rain and in snow, slow down, and make sure you get to where you’re going safely,” Varner said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation. Drugs and alcohol were not suspected as a factor in the wreck.
Editor’s note: The two girls were transported to Valley Children’s Hospital, not Community Regional Medical Center of Fresno as first reported.