On Jan. 11, two best friends, Natalie Griffin and Jenna Santos, were driving back home to Castro Valley, California, after a road trip to the Mendocino area during winter break, ABC7News reports.
That's when the car Santos was driving hydroplaned off of Highway 101, landing the vehicle in a freezing creek. The two girls were stuck inside the sinking car, until Griffin found a way out through a broken window.
Griffin told Santos to follow her through the window, KRON4 reports. Heartbreakingly, Santos wasn't able to escape the front seat, and she died.
For 12 hours, Griffin clung to overhanging tree branches so she wouldn't drown in the current.
"She said that she had been crying a lot during the night and asking Jenna to help her while she was pretty much hovering up in the tree," said Griffin's mother, Midge Griffin, to KRON4.
Early Jan. 12, Griffin was finally able to swim to a bank after water levels lowered. She hoisted herself out of the creek and climbed up a hill, where she flagged down a passerby. She told emergency personnel where Santos was located.
"She had so many dreams in life," Griffin said of her best friend.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Griffin and her family to help out the Santos family during this tragic time.
"[Jenna Santos] will forever be remembered for her contagious smile, kind heart, and her ability to light up any room," the page reads.
It's a painful, tough-to-digest story, but it's also one of the human spirit's resilience and strength during the worst hours.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr, Gold Beach Real Estate