Jessica Rath, 26, of Astoria, Oregon, was killed when her car veered off the road and hit a tree when she and her two daughters, ages 2 and 4, were on their way to pick up Rath's husband, KING5 reported.
Rath spoke to her husband, a fisherman, sometime after midnight when he called to say he would be coming into Portland, Ore., rather than Westport, Wash. He said not to worry about picking him up, but she appears to have decided to drive to Portland anyway.
State patrol believe she may have fallen asleep at the wheel, and likely died immediately.
The girls were both injured, but the 4-year old had the presence of mind to free her younger sister from the wreckage and managed to cover them both with a blanket, which likely saved both of their lives. Troopers estimate the girls were huddled together for as long as six hours in 40 degree temperatures and rain.
Although the vehicle wasn't visible from the road, a passerby eventually spotted a gash on a tree around 8 a.m., and pulled over to investigate.
“I just can’t imagine what the little girls were going through,” said Kraai McClure, who found the girls. “It could have been a really different ending, but it is, you know, a halfway happy ending.”
We’re lucky we had someone paying attention or we may not have found them for a long time,” State Patrol Trooper Russ Winger told the Seattle Times. “Hypothermia could have set in if they were found any later.”
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]