Their car fell into a ravine 300 feet away. The new satellite SOS system for the iPhone probably saved them
A couple whose car plunged into a rocky canyon in the Angeles National Forest survived not only by luck, but likely also thanks to a new iPhone feature that immediately alerted first responders to the accident, rescuers said.
Their car fell about 300 feet from a treacherous section of the Angeles Forest Highway where there is no cell service. It’s a spot where Sgt. John Gilbert, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Montrose Search and Rescue Team, said he remembers his team’s response only to fatal crashes.
“Not only is it a great fall in terms of distance, but this particular canyon is very steep,” Gilbert said. Describing it as “a miracle in itself” the couple survived – and then were also able to reach out for help.
Fortunately for the couple, Chloe Fields said she recently switched her phone service provider and got an upgrade to the iPhone 14, which she was grateful to learn came with a new emergency SOS system that uses crash detection and satellite technology.
Even before she and her boyfriend tried calling 911, which might not have been possible from their location, her phone had alerted local emergency responders about their crash and their location.
“I didn’t know this was a feature on the iPhone,” said Fields, 23. Once boyfriend Christian Zelada found her smashed but still working phone on the side of the canyon, she said, they used emergency satellite messages to pass on more details about their injuries and the crash.
The company said Apple operates relay centers with trained emergency professionals who communicate with people in crisis through the new satellite system, then send the information to local emergency personnel.
Within 30 minutes they were rescued, Fields said.
“Without any of that [technology]”We would not have been alerted to the fact that they were over the side of the mountain, and no one would have known to look for them,” Gilbert said. Although the pair escaped with relatively light injuries, “they could have had the minor issue of how we got out of that canyon before nightfall, when you start having hypothermia issues.”
He said it was about 45 degrees during the day and could have dropped as quickly as 30 seconds once the sun went down.
Fields said she and Zelada went for a scenic ride Tuesday afternoon in a Hyundai Elantra. On their way to their home in Glendale, a vehicle began to swing in reverse and triggered, so Zelada tried to pull over somewhere to let the vehicle pass. But their car hit some gravel, she said, and Zelada lost control.
“The car just lost power,” Fields said. “A full 180 cars are back on us, and the next thing you know we’re falling backwards down the mountain.”
Fields said she remembers hitting at least two large trees and then rolling, until they fell upside down near a creek at the bottom of the valley. When they unbuckled their seat belts and got outside, she said, they were surprised to find that they were largely fine.
Then Zelada found Fields’ phone, which he had already signaled for help.
rescue men I converged on Monkey Valley Gilbert said the sign near mile 18 on the Angeles Forest Highway at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, after receiving location information from Apple’s emergency satellite system.
“This information allowed us to get the rescue helicopter,” Gilbert said. Satellite information from the iPhone provided the latitude and longitude of the crash, he said, and the rescue helicopter was able to quickly locate the car and the couple.
He said the wrecked car was not visible from the road.
They were both airlifted to the hospital, Fields said, and after many tests, doctors confirmed their initial assessment — neither had serious injuries. She said they both had some minor cuts, bruises, and a sore neck, most likely from the impact, but were feeling relatively well.
“We were kind of shocked about the whole thing and how we feel after it all,” Fields said. “But we got away in one piece, feeling so grateful.”
“Their technology in this case was very useful,” Gilbert said. “This is the first time we’ve had one of these rescue alerts [occurred]. He said he remembered another time an iPhone user used the satellite emergency system after he got lost.
Emergency SOS via satellite is free for two years after you activate your iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro, according to Apple, thanks to a partnership with Globalstar.
Fields has set up a GoFundMe for the couple, which she said will help them deal with rescue bills and a hospital visit.
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