ALTON, Iowa --- A Northwest Iowa family made a shocking discovery Sunday night outside their rural Sioux County residence.
It was 4-year-old Averie Carrion.
Authorities say the preschooler from Granville had walked a quarter mile through a snow-covered field to summon help for her mother, Jamie Carrion, and her 1-year-old brother, Abel, after the truck the family was riding in careened off Iowa Highway 10 and rolled into the ditch.
Her grandmother, Nancy Schwebach, still got emotional days later recounting what her granddaughter told the strangers.
"She had told the Zenks (Patrick and Jean) that her brother was crying and she thought her mother was dead," Schwebach said.
Police say the child walked away from the wreck, leaving her mother and younger brother behind. The vehicle went off the road around 7 p.m., about a mile and a half east of Alton.
Trapped inside the truck and unaware of Averie's trek to go get help, Carrion was terrified her daughter may have been severely injured or killed in the crash. She, and later the authorities, couldn't find Averie anywhere.
"Averie wasn't responding to me, so I thought that she was unconscious or something because I couldn't hear her," said Carrion, who called 911 on her cell phone. "I went into a panic ... I was screaming at the (police) dispatcher."
Schwebach, rushed to the scene but could only watch, warned to stay away, as police scoured the surrounding field for the child.
"I was just sick with worry," Schwebach said. "Where is she?"
Rescuers even searched underneath the truck. Carrion left the car she was in and went over to look, fearing the worst for her child.
"At that moment I seriously thought that she was dead, because they weren't telling me anything," Carrion said.
Relief washed over the family when they learned Averie was at a neighboring farmstead.
Schwebach, who rode in the ambulance with Averie, said medics treated the soaking wet child for hypothermia.
Schwebach said she is proud of Averie.
"I think she's pretty special, but of course I'm prejudiced," she said Tuesday afternoon.
Although Carrion describes her daughter as "very outgoing" and "very adventurous," she was still surprised Averie took off across the dark field.
"It did shock me a little bit because she's only 4 and it was dark and she didn't know where she was going," said Carrion, 25. "I think her instinct kicked in and she knew we were in trouble and she knew we needed help.
Sioux County sheriff's deputy Justin Bruin said although Averie was cold, she appeared to have escaped serious injury from the crash and the trek. She, her mother and her little brother were reunited at a local hospital, where they were treated and released later that night.
"(It was) pretty impressive, really," De Bruin said. "For a 4 year-old, that's pretty brave."