British Columbia

5-year-old flags down help after Mom knocked out in car wreck

A five-year-old B.C. girl is credited with saving her mother and baby brother's lives after climbing out of her car seat and up an embankment after the mother fell asleep at the wheel and drove off an embankment just outside of Jasper, Alta.

'I just couldn't even believe what she had done'

The Shymanski family: from left, Lexi, Angela, Travis and baby Peter.

 A five-year-old B.C. girl is credited with saving her mother and baby brother's lives after the mother fell asleep at the wheel and drove off an embankment just outside of Jasper, Alta.  

Angela Shymanski was driving home to Prince George, B.C., from Calgary in June with a lullaby playing on the CD player to soothe her two kids Lexi and Peter, who were strapped in to their car seats in the back seat.

The soft music caused Shymanski to nod off while behind the wheel, and her SUV veered down a 12-metre embankment and crashed into a tree. Shymanski was knocked unconscious.

Her daughter Lexi woke up strapped into her car seat to the sound of her baby brother crying.

"She woke up and got out of her five-point harness, which she had only done once before, and she just climbed up the embankment to the highway and flagged somebody down," Shymanski told CBC News. 

When Shymanski came to, she was staring at a stranger who told her what her daughter had done, and that her kids were safe.

"I just couldn't even believe what she had done.

"He said, 'Your little girl, she hiked up this embankment and flagged us down,'" Shymanski said. "And he said, 'Don't worry, they're both up at the top, at the highway and they're fine.' "

Shymanski and her children were flown to an Edmonton hospital. Her infant son had a small bleed in his brain but will suffer no permanent damage.

Shymanski had several injuries including small fractures in her neck and upper back. She's still in a wheelchair and only recently became strong enough to carry her infant son again. Lexi only suffered a scratch. 

Shymanski returned home to Prince George in late June.  

Shymanski and her baby son Peter were treated in an Edmonton hospital after the accident. (Angela Shymanski)

Girl still has nightmares

Shymanski still can't quite believe how calmly Lexi reacted.

"Even now, a month and a half later, I still can't believe what she was able to do. [She] climbed up 12 metres of a steep embankment. She was in bare feet."

Six weeks after the crash, her son has recovered. Lexi still has nightmares.

Shymanski recently asked Lexi what prompted her to go and seek help.

"I thought, 'What would Mommy say if she was awake ... Mommy would say go get help,' " said Lexi.

She credits good parenting for her daughter's willingness to spring into action.
"Teaching her independence and teaching her the difference between bad strangers and good people, good strangers," she said.

The family has launched a fundraising campaign to pay for some of their costs. Shymanski, a swim instructor, hasn't been able to work since the crash. Her husband Travis has been off work to care for his family.

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