FOREST LAKE - Remarkably, Allyson Andert remembers almost everything — the fog, the watery road, the mid-air flip, the crash, the panicked attempt to escape. Her mind will not let her forget.
The 22-year-old college student was driving home from North Branch last Wednesday just before 10 p.m. Visibility wasn't great on Interstate 35 heading southbound. As she approached Forest Lake, Andert saw a deep puddle, forcing her to switch off cruise control and slow down a few miles per hour.
Her truck hydroplaned.
Then it hit a barrier, jumped a snow bank, flipped, and landed upside down in a pool of water.
"I felt it all happen," Andert said. "I knew I was in for it."
Andert couldn't reach her seat belt to free herself from the driver's seat. Time was running out.
"I felt my legs covered with water," Andert said. "I felt my face get covered with ice and water."
She tried again to reach the seat belt.
"I was fighting the whole time," Andert said. "I was just thinking, 'I need to keep fighting. Because my mom is not going to get that call — that her oldest child and first daughter is dead."
Deanna and Mark Hernandez saw the whole thing.
They were one car behind Andert, driving home to Mahtomedi.
"When she flipped," Deanna said, "we were like, 'Oh, my, god.'"
They pulled over immediately. Deanna called 911, while Mark rushed down to the scene with another bystander. The water was up to their knees, but they finally pulled Andert out of the car after cutting her seat belt.
"Her face and lips were blue," Mark said. "That's when the officer came over. Started giving her CPR."
Andert regained consciousness in the ambulance.
She knows what might have happened had those Good Samaritans not stopped.
"Oh, absolutely," Andert said. "I would have died."
Instead, Andert escaped without any serious injuries. She still gets winded easily because her lungs aren't at full strength — and doctors will need to monitor her kidneys — but it could have been much worse.
"I'm just so grateful and blessed that somebody was there," Andert said. "Somebody saw it."
Andert didn't know who the Good Samaritans were until a few days later, when KARE 11 interviewed Deanna and Mark Hernandez.
She wanted to meet them.
And she wondered what she might say.
"I've thought about it," Andert said, pausing. "Just, thank you."
A few minutes later, Mark and Deanna Hernandez walked into Andert's kitchen.
First came the hug with Deanna: "One of the scariest events of my life," she told Andert. "I'm so grateful you're doing so awesome!"
Then came the hug with Mark.
"Thank you," Andert told them. "Thank you for being here."
For the next 60 minutes, Andert heard the story of her frightening crash from the Hernandez's perspective. They described seeing her car flip, and they described their panic as they called police and pulled over to help.
Andert's mother called them angels.
"I know you were sent," she told them, "to take care of my baby."
Deanna and Mark learned Andert was a junior at Bethel University, majoring in social work.
And they all pledged to meet again — next time under better circumstances.
"I'm just happy you're alive," Mark Hernandez told Andert.
She is too.
"I was given this chance," Andert said. "If I'm gonna be here, I'm gonna live. I want to live every day happy."