Human Interest Couple Rescued from Remote Calif. Canyon After Car Careens Over Cliff: 'Nothing Short of a Miracle' A passenger's iPhone 14 detected a crash and made an SOS call via satellite in an area with no cell service, allowing for a helicopter rescue after a car plunged into the steep canyon By Diane Herbst Published on December 16, 2022 09:44 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Cloe Fields and Christian Zelada two days after the crash. Photo: Courtesy Cloe Fields Cloe Fields and her boyfriend Christian Zelada are lucky to be alive after their car veered off a California highway and over a cliff, plunging 300 feet before landing upside down in a remote canyon. The couple were on a leisurely mountain drive near their home in Glendale on Tuesday, when Zelada pulled over to let another car pass. Within seconds, their Hyundai Elantra spun out on the gravelly road and plunged backwards off a cliff along the Angeles Forest Highway. "All we could see was trees, dirt and smoke, and we were hitting trees," Fields, 23, tells PEOPLE. "Then we felt the rolling and we were upside down." Their car landed on its roof after falling nearly 300 feet into Monkey Canyon. After getting out of the vehicle, "We looked at each and checked each other, and all we had were some scratches," Fields says. "Then my first initial thought was 'Where's my phone?' " The couple's car after the accident. Courtesy Cloe Fields Despite no cell service in the steep canyon, Fields' iPhone 14 — which she found about 10 feet from the wreck — had already used new technology to automatically detect the crash and make an SOS call via satellite to an Apple emergency relay center, which quickly alerted officials of the accident and its location. Within 30 minutes, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials were able to rescue Fields and Zelada. A helicopter from the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) — home of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's high-risk rescue teams — was used to reach the crash site deep in the canyon. As the chopper hovered above, the team dropped down tactical medics and pulling the pair to safety using a rope. Video of the dramatic rescue in Angeles National Forest was posted on social media by authorities. "I was hyperventilating and crying at the same time," says Fields of being hoisted up to the helicopter. "They're like, 'You're okay, you're alive, you're fine.' It was so fast I was like, 'I can't believe this happened.' " The couple were flown to a Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, where doctors treated them for minor abrasions to the face, according to Zelada, 24, who adds that his whole body was sore. "It felt like you were in a grueling workout," he says. Montrose Search & Rescue Team/Twitter "This particular stretch of road, we've had vehicles go over and we are dealing with a fatality," Sgt. John Gilbert, a deputy for the L.A. County sheriff's department and its search and rescue coordinator who was on the scene, tells PEOPLE. "For them to go over and survive is nothing short of a miracle." While awaiting their rescue, Fields was able to text details of their location and give updates on their condition thanks to the satellite signal on her iPhone 14, which she bought in November. "I told them we are okay," Fields, a recent college graduate and video editor, says of communicating with the relay center. "And please come. It was 40 degrees, it was cold up there." The iPhone 14's SOS technology is "a game changer," Gilbert says. "If they hadn't been able to get out the SOS, they could have spent overnight there, gotten wet, developed hypothermia," the sheriff's deputy says of the survivors. "And then to walk out and get help, in a remote area with no cell reception, they were lucky." Cloe Fields after the accident. Courtesy Cloe Fields The miracle of their survival is not lost on the couple. "I told Cloe that we are the one-in-million chance of walking unscathed from this type of situation," says Zelada, who works for a car dealership in Los Angeles. "Most people in these situations lose their lives or a limb," he continues, "and the worst that happened to us are a couple cuts on our faces." The area of the crash, with its narrow canyon walls, has such poor reception that even the sheriff's department's satellite phone service is intermittent, Gilbert tells PEOPLE. Christian Zelada after the accident. Courtesy Cloe Fields While satellite phones have been available and used by people in remote wilderness areas, "having it as a feature of a phone you already have, in a case where they didn't expect to go off the road, it's a critical piece in saving them," Gilbert adds. "I wasn't expecting that Apple would be a reason we are still here and that we got out," says Fields, who started a GoFundMe to help with medical bills. "God bless the first responders who saved us," she wrote on the fundraising site.