A woman who is recovering after a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike left her car stuck under the belly of an 18-wheeler Monday afternoon admits she was shocked she and her mother were still alive moments after the accident.
"I looked at my mom and I looked at me and I just thought, 'we're alive!'" Cathrenia Moening told NBC10. "And I just thought, 'this is absolutely miraculous.'"
Moening, 55, was driving her Mazda Miata south of Lansdale and north of Blue Bell near mile marker 25 of the Turnpike around 2:30 p.m. Monday. Her mother, 78-year-old Nahlin Duka, was on the passenger side. As they were driving, a UPS truck was merging from the middle lane to the right lane. Officials say the truck driver didn't see the Miata and the two vehicles collided. The crash caused the car to get stuck under the belly of the 18-wheeler.
Duka was able to get out of the vehicle before crews arrived. However, Moening was trapped in her car underneath the truck.
Rescuers from the Towamencin and Skippack Fire Departments worked for nearly two hours to get Moening out. Towamencin Volunteer Fire Company Chief George Seifert was among the first responders.
"She was pinned on top of her leg and her lower extremities," he said.
SkyForce10 showed emergency crews all along the bed of the UPS truck on the southbound lanes of the highway on the Northeast Extension of the turnpike as they worked to rescue her.
During the rescue, firefighters talked with Moening the entire time, letting her know she'd be okay and explained step by step what they were doing.
"We told her what was going on," said Skippack Fire Company Deputy Chief Mike Risell. "She remained calm."
The heat and humidity made the rescue tough on the firefighters. They worked in 15 minute shifts, rotating to take breaks for water and rest. Crews had to cut off a good portion of the front of the car to get her out.
"When they did they took the roof off and I looked up," Moening said. "And I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm under the truck!'"
With the car's roof off, rescuers were finally able to pull her out. Moening was conscious and appeared to be okay as she was put on a stretcher and given a kiss by her husband who had rushed to the scene.
"It makes us happy to have a day like today," Risell said. "This is a very good day."
Both Moening and Duka were taken to Abington Memorial Hospital. Moening is in guarded condition while Duka is under evaluation. The driver of the UPS truck was not hurt. Moening will need to undergo several more tests before she's allowed out of the hospital.
Despite her injuries, Moening knows things could have been much worse if not for the firefighters who saved her life.
"I just had such a wonderful team, all putting their effort in," she said. "And it had just a wonderful outcome."