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Car's emergency call system helped save Highway 24 driver's life

March 6, 2014 Updated: March 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm
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A woman who rolled her car down the side of U.S. 24 on Wednesday has her car's emergency call system to thank for helping to save her life.

Police said 55-year-old Theresa Collier was eastbound on Highway 24 through Manitou Springs when at about 10 a.m., for an unknown reason, her car left the road, accelerated, became airborne for some 90 feet and then crashed and rolled for more than 100 feet down the embankment near Williams Canyon.

Her battered car came to rest in a ravine about 250 feet from the roadway, police said.

No one reported seeing the crash, and the wreckage wasn't visible from the road, said Manitou Springs Fire Department spokesman David Hunting, one of the first responders to the crash scene.

But when the air bags deployed, her car, a 2010 Mercedes Benz M Class, sent an emergency message with her GPS coordinates to Colorado State Patrol, Manitou Springs police and El Paso County Sheriff's deputies.

"That certainly helped save her life," Hunting said, because when rescue crews arrived, he said there was no sign of a crash, and the car was nowhere in sight.

"We initially thought the car was driving westbound," Hunting said, "But when we looked at the GPS coordinates, we discovered she was probably driving eastbound."

After searching for half an hour, crews had found nothing.

"It was really the intuition of one of the officers from Manitou to look farther down into the ravine, and there she was," Hunting said.

Collier was conscious but was bleeding heavily from injuries, including serious ones to her back and right arm, police said.

She was airlifted to Memorial Hospital Central where here condition was described as "serious" Wednesday. A dog also was rescued from the crash, police said.

On Thursday, Manitou Springs police said Collier would undergo surgery but would recover.

Investigators determined she had gone off the road at a curve about a quarter of a mile past the east Manitou Springs exit and onto a dirt pull-off, police said. She then traveled about 118 feet off the road, behind a metal guard rail and apparently accelerated before reaching the end of the road, where the car went airborne.

Police said the cause of the crash was unknown, and that there were no skid marks or signs she hit another car. They also said drugs and alcohol do not appear to be a factor and that she will not be ticketed for the crash.

"If a person has that GPS service enabled on their car, when those air bags go off, and it doesn't matter which air bag, it makes the emergency call and sends the coordinates," said Doug Dieterle, a salesman at Mercedes Benz of Colorado Springs.

Dieterle said the service Mercedes Benz uses is called mbrace and that it's similar to the OnStar system General Motors began using in the late 2000s.

He said last year Mercedes made mbrace standard on all models and that a basic subscription costs about $280 a year, but a premium subscription, called mbrace-PLUS, costs about $480.

"The basic subscription provides the emergency stuff," Dieterle said, "but the premium, it'll find you restaurants and everything. It even logs you into Facebook in your car if you want it to."

It's unclear which subscription Collier had, but it served its purpose.

"I'm sure other jurisdictions have gotten a lot of OnStar calls, but this is the first one we've seen in Manitou," Hunting said. "It's easy to see how important it was."

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