Girl Rescued After Being Trapped in Car Underwater


A 9-year-old girl was brought back to life Saturday after being trapped underwater for more than 20 minutes when her mother’s car plunged into the California Aqueduct, the California Highway Patrol reported.

After a Los Angeles County firefighter dove into the murky water and freed Shanika Lister from the vehicle, the girl was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation and flown to the Antelope Valley Hospital, where she was in critical condition late Saturday.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before; for as long as she was under it’s amazing,” said Firefighter Ron McFadden, who pulled Shanika from the car. “When we got there, she wasn’t in any air pocket.”

The 1998 Plymouth plunged into the aqueduct about 8:45 a.m. when Vicki Lister, Shanika’s mother, swerved to avoid a car heading toward them in the wrong lane of the Pearblossom Highway west of Palmdale, said CHP Sgt. Norman Duarte. The Lister car ran through a fence and sank to the bottom of the 16-foot-deep aqueduct, upside-down, as the other car continued east on the highway, Duarte said.


Vicki Lister of Rialto and a passenger, Mary Goodley of San Bernardino, were able to swim to the surface, but Shanika remained trapped by her seat belt in the back seat.

She remained there for 20 to 25 minutes, until McFadden swam into the car through an open back window and unbuckled the unconscious girl.

Her lungs were full of water and she did not have a pulse when McFadden handed her to paramedics on the shore, he said. Paramedics were able to regain a slight pulse.

“It’s not just a me thing, but it was everybody who was there,” McFadden said of the rescue. “It was just a real smooth rescue and a true team effort. Hopefully she makes it and then it would be a great day.”


The victim was in the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital. McFadden said he had heard that the girl’s brain function had been restored and that she was breathing steadily, although the hospital refused to comment on the case, or the girl’s prospects for recovery, citing confidentiality.

Vicki Lister was treated for minor injuries and released. Goodley was in fair condition, an Antelope Valley Hospital spokeswoman said.

The CHP said it was investigating the accident as a crime and is searching for the other car.