Reporting Jamie Yuccas
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A mom driving with her toddler daughter fell asleep, crashed into an overpass and plunged into the Red Cedar River near Menomonie, Wis. on Sunday.
Daniella Overette can’t believe she and her daughter Ashlynn are alive today.
“I really believe there are angels over us, because it was not good,” Overette said.
After visiting family in Georgia, Daniella had a flight home, but once in Detroit her flights were canceled due to weather. She decided to rent a car.
“My goal was basically to just get home,” she said.
After almost nine hours on the road, Daniella says she fell asleep at the wheel early Sunday morning in the westbound lanes of interstate 94.
She hit the eastbound overpass and plunged toward the Red Cedar River with her little girl in the backseat.
“There wasn’t enough time to stop the car,” she said. “We’re under this bridge, and it’s dark. No one’s saw us go in – no one’s going to know we’re down there. I just had all the motivation in the world to get her safe.”
Daniella’s instincts kicked in. She grabbed the toddler and climbed out the passenger’s side window.
“I knew we had to get to the edge because I could hear the ice cracking,” she said.
Once on shore, she then had to crawl up the steep embankment.
“We were…soaking wet and it was really, really, really cold,” she said.
At the top, she tried waving down cars, but no one stopped.
“Eventually I just started running because I knew we were going to probably freeze to death,” she said.
She made it to a rest stop down the road, where a semi driver called for help and let them warm up in his cab. Besides some bruises and scratches, Daniella and Ashlynn were largely unscathed.
“I don’t know how, but we’re fine, perfectly fine,” she said.
And she hopes others learn from her experience.
“We got really lucky, I would just say never drive when you’re tired,” Overette said.
She added that her seatbelt saved her life. She also wants to thank the truck driver who stopped to help her, but didn’t get his name.