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Woman recalls frantic fight to survive in fast moving creek

Woman recalls frantic fight to...

TEHAMA COUNTY, Calif - Andrea Collette, her brother Michael Lujan and her boyfriend were trying to get to their home surrounded by floodwaters Friday night when it tipped over. Collette and her boyfriend were rescued, but Lujan drowned.
 
The three had no other way to get home except for a canoe because the road was flooded. She said Saron Fruit Colony Road had been flooded for a couple weeks.
 
"We didn't even think about the current or how deep it was because we crossed before," she explained.
 
As they made their journey home, the canoe flipped, sending all three of them into the rushing water.
 
"The current just pulled us under and we all split up after that,” Collette said. “I remember treading water and that was about it."
 
All three of them were fighting for their lives.
 
"I kept going under. I couldn't hold on to anything,” she said. “I couldn't grasp anything."
 
Collette knew she had to grab onto something big to survive. She recalled what it was like being washed downstream. "[The water] was just nonstop. It kept moving pulling you under, ice cold... I couldn't even feel my legs or my feet."
 
She was eventually able to grab a tree branch and remembers thinking, "If I let go of that branch I knew I would have been done."
 
Collette said she tried her hardest to call for help.
 
"I was screeching at the top of my lungs for somebody to help me, or help us,” she said. “I was just screaming 'Help! Help!'"
 
A neighbor heard her calls and phoned for help. Then neighbors tried to offer support.
 
"[My neighbor] was telling me 'Help is on the way, it's going to be okay,'” Collette said. “I just felt a relief, but I felt it wasn't fast enough."
 
As she waited for the Tehama County Sheriff's Office, Collette tried to keep her head above the water.
 
"It was the scariest thing in my life," she said.
 
A few  hours later, rescue crews were able to save Collette and her boyfriend.
 
"I blacked out… I don't remember being pulled out. I don't remember anything," she said.
 
Collette and her boyfriend were taken to the hospital. She had no idea at the time her brother was not rescued and crews could not find him.
 
As she held back tears, Collette said, "[I] can't believe he is gone already. I just can't believe he is gone."
 
Collette said Lujan was her older brother but she acted like his older sister, taking care of him.
 
She mentioned he was a laid back guy and he will be missed.
 
"Just his presence, just him being there, he doesn't even have to say anything he could just be sitting there and let you know everything is alright," she while fighting back tears.
 
Collette said her brother's backpack was found on Sunday afternoon.
 
Deputies found Lujan Sunday evening and neighbors said it was about a mile downstream, near the Jellys Ferry Bridge.
 
Collette stressed she is extremely grateful for everyone who helped save her and her boyfriend.
 
She added if Saron Fruit Colony Road floods again she is not going to cross it.

 



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