California teen survives crash by holding onto tree overnight; Friend dies

Lisa Amin Gulezian Image
ByLisa Amin Gulezian KGO logo
Monday, January 16, 2017
Castro Valley teen survives crash after holding onto tree overnight
One of two Castro Valley teen girls survived by holding onto a tree for 12 hours in freezing water after their car hydroplaned and crashed into a swollen creek near Willits.

CASTRO VALLEY, California -- A fun road trip for two Castro Valley High School graduates turned tragic and deadly after their car crashed into a creek.

Jenna Santos and Natalie Griffin were driving back to Castro Valley from the Mendocino area when their car hydroplaned off Highway 101 and into a swollen creek near Willits that night. Unfortunately, only Griffin survived.

Santos' best friend Griffin was in the passenger seat and she noticed a way to escape from the sinking car through a broken rear window.

"They were upside down and her friend was stuck and she tried to get her out, but couldn't so she got out and survived, but her friend didn't," Castro Valley High School student Kristina Galvin said.

Santos couldn't get out of the front seat of the sunken car, but Griffin survived by holding onto a tree for 12 hours in freezing water.

Then on Thursday morning, Griffin was able to swim to a bank where she pulled herself out of the water, hiked up a hill, and flagged down someone passing by.

She told emergency crews where to find her best friend.

"She had so many dreams in life," Griffin said.

Santos planned to be a psychiatrist one day. At Castro Valley High School, she was a cheerleader with lots of friends.

"She was so full of light and so energetic, there was nothing not to love about her, she never said one bad thing about anyone," Santos' friend Jessica Uhlenhop said.

Click here to help Santos' family pay for funeral costs.