Twin 4-year-old girls managed to escape through the broken rear window of a wrecked sedan, climb a steep forest slope in the dark and find a passerby for help after they were in a crash that killed their father Friday night on a winding Whidbey Island road, according to the Washington State Patrol.
Corey Simmons, a 47-year-old Langley man, was killed when the Nissan Sentra he was driving hurtled off Bob Galbreath Road at about 6 p.m. Friday, traveling at least 100 feet into a ravine and striking multiple trees before it came to a halt.
The State Patrol is investigating why the car went off the road.
“We simply don’t know,” said Trooper Heather Axtman, a spokeswoman for the State Patrol, which continues to investigate the crash.
What is clear, Axtman said, is that the childrens’ bravery prevented worse.
“It’s one of the truly saddest stories, but so heroic at the exact same time. Had those little girls not had the sense of awareness they showed, we would have a missing family,” Axtman said. “They overcame every typical little kid fear. The woods, and the dark.”
Simmons was a “caring” dad with a “boisterous, loud voice” always ready with a joke, said his girlfriend, Esther Crider. He worked in concrete and asphalt as a member of Local 292, a laborers union, Crider said.
Simmons had a day off Friday. After helping Crider’s parents install an oven, he picked his daughters up at day care in Mukilteo before boarding the ferry to Whidbey Island.
The three stopped for snacks at a convenience store and were driving home to Langley when the car went off the road, Crider said.
“Corey drove up and down that road every day for about five years,” Crider said. “I don’t know what happened.”
Crider’s identical twin daughters, Rosaline and Aurora, were buckled in booster seats in the back of the Nissan Sentra, Axtman said. Simmons had not been wearing a seat belt and suffered a head injury.
The vehicle, which crashed in thick forest and underbrush, could not be seen from the roadway.
The twins unbuckled themselves, checked on their father, realized he was not talking and needed help and then climbed out of the broken window, according to Axtman. They made their way uphill to the road.
A good Samaritan told troopers she did not see the children illuminated in her headlights as she was driving, but happened to catch a glimpse of them on the roadside while passing.
“She was at the right spot at the right time,” Axtman said.
Crider said both twins were missing their shoes when they were found.
“They said they were scared and running around in the dark trying to go home,” Crider said. “A lady in a white car helped them get warm.”
Axtman said the passerby called 911.
“She knew something was tragic,” Axtman said. “The girls got in the car and said: ‘My daddy, my daddy, my daddy.’ ”
Emergency responders found Simmons dead inside the vehicle. The responders brought the twins to a nearby health center.
Rosaline suffered a bump on her forehead. Aurora had scratches on her forearm, Crider said.
“Other than that, physically, they’re fine,” Crider said.
Crider said the two girls, who will enter kindergarten next fall, are “independent,” but she’s astonished by what they did.
“Incredible heroes,” Axtman said. “Our prayers and thoughts are with them losing their dad.”
Crider said the twins have been surrounded by family and friends in the days since the wreck, as they come to grips with the loss.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Crider said. “Rosaline used to giggle in her sleep. Now she’s crying.”
A GoFundMe page for the family had raised about $6,000 as of Sunday night.
Simmons, who was also father to an 8-year-old son from another relationship, will be dearly missed, Crider said. He was a handyman who loved to play with the twins on their trampoline and listen to old country music, she said.
“Nobody else could be like him,” Crider said. “It’s going to be hard for everybody.”
A week ago, the family went to pick out a Christmas tree after the girls finished a gymnastics class. Simmons walked the rows, trying to find the perfect one.
“This one didn’t have enough leaves … This one was too tall. This one was too short,” Crider said, remembering. The twins watched happily as their dad cut their final selection down.
“Everything we did, he tried to make sure the kids were having fun,” Crider said.