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Girl, 4, treks quarter mile through snow to save family

Last Sunday, 25-year-old Jamie Carrion and her two young children were driving in a truck that careened off an Iowa highway and rolled into a ditch. Four-year-old Averie set off to find help for her mother and 1-year-old brother, walking through the snow to a farmhouse a quarter of a mile away.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

With her beguiling smile and twinkling eyes, 4-year-old Averie Carrion may not look like much of a hero, but don’t tell that to her mother and young brother, who were rescued from a crash on a wintry Iowa road after the little girl braved subfreezing temperatures and trudged a quarter of a mile through waist-deep snow to find help.

“I’m very proud of her,” the girl’s mother, 25-year-old Jamie Carrion, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in an exclusive interview Friday. “She’s a very brave, smart little girl.”

The young family’s ordeal began Wednesday. Moving to a new home, Carrion had loaded their possessions into the back of a pickup truck and was heading down Route 10, not far from Granville, when she hit an icy patch, lost control of the truck and it overturned.

Her 1-year-old son, Abel, was secured, as usual, in a car seat. Little Averie was not. Trying to shake off the shock of the crash, Jamie Carrion looked around and saw that the little boy was bleeding. She called out to Averie, and Averie answered. “She told me that she couldn’t breathe,” Carrion said. “I just told her to stay still, I was going to try to get help.” Carrion said she struggled to get out of the vehicle, searching frantically for her cell phone, and when she finally found it, she dialed 911. “The lady was asking me who was in the car.”

She could still see her son, she told Vieira, but Averie had vanished. In her confusion, Carrion feared the worst. “I thought she was unconscious, she was under the vehicle,” Carrion said. “I started panicking ... The dispatcher said, ‘Stay calm,’ and I was like, I don’t want to stay calm.”

When help finally arrived, rescuers righted the overturned truck and searched the snow beneath it, looking for Averie.

What they didn’t know was that, acting perhaps on instinct, or perhaps, as Averie said, on a lesson learned from her father, Averie had gone for help.

It was dark and 21 degrees that night, and the snow on the side of the road was a foot and half deep, a monumental obstacle to a little girl who was only a foot or so taller than that herself. But Averie pushed on, reaching a farmhouse owned by Patrick and Jean Zick. When the Zick family dog began barking, the Zicks came out to investigate and found the little girl, soaked and shivering, in their yard. Averie told them about the crash and said her brother was injured, and that she thought her mother was dead.

Patrick Zick raced to the scene, and told the frantic mother that her daughter was safe and that she had heroically gone off to rescue them.

Though the family lost many of their possessions in the crash — “It’s all gone,” young Averie told Vieira — miraculously, they suffered only minor injuries. “All of us came away with just some cuts and bruises, thank God,” said her mother.

But they preserved their most important cargo — each other. “It’s like having my family again,” Averie said.