Woman stranded in Plumas forest for three days, gives birth

Jun 28, 2015 10:28 PM by David McVicker

For Amber Pangborn, all the stresses of labor and childbirth were merely afterthoughts when she gave birth in one of the most unusual places...on the side of the road miles away from civilization.

After feeling contractions begin Wednesday night, Pangborn got in her car bound for her parents' Paradise home. She opted for a shortcut that was unfamiliar to her, and on the way, became lost.

"I was told about this back road and people had shown it to me a few times but I have never driven it by myself," Pangborn said.

As her contractions began to intensify and get closer and closer together, Pangborn's danger doubled down.

"There was no cell phone service. There was no...there was nothing," she said. "And my car was out of gas." Pangborn continued down gravel path, too far down to turn back, hoping she said, to find someone along the way who could help.

With her gas depleted, so too did her hope that she would be able to find someone to give her aid. Stranded on the side of French Camp Road in the Plumas National Forest, Pangborn did the unbelievable.

"I laid out a sleeping back in the backseat, lied down, gripped the handle above the back window and gave birth to my daughter," she said.

With newborn in arms, Pangborn now had to figure out how she was going to be rescued. It would be another three days before that would happen. In the meantime, Pangborn survived on a small bottle of soda, a small bottle of water and three apples she said she had in her car. She said she didn't cut the umbilical cord from her daughter Marissa until the next night fearing she would have nothing to eat.

"I was just thinking ‘Oh my gosh,'" she said. "I wasn't sure we were actually going to get out of there."
Every time Pangborn tried to leave her vehicle, she said she was swarmed and attacked by local fauna.

"The meat bees came out and were trying to get the placenta," she said. "I was trying to protect (my daughter) from getting stung and I got stung trying to keep them away from the baby but they kept going back to the placenta."

As the hours passed, and faced with a continuously threatening situation, Pangborn made a plan. She learned long ago from her father how to make a fire in case of an emergency. She took a lighter and an aerosol can of hair spray and torched some dry brush.

"The first just went ‘woosh,' and shot up the mountainside," she said. "I was looking at Marissa and I told her ‘honey, I think mommy just started a forest fire."

Fortunately for her and the rest of the forest, a U.S. Department of Forestry fire detection system was alerted and CALFIRE dispatched a helicopter to put the fire out. She said the helicopter came so close to the roof of the car, she thought it was going to land right on top of them.

"I was just crying, I thought we were going to die," she said. "I was also just so glad that someone had seen us and we were going to be okay."

U.S. Department of Forestry sent out a rescue squad and Pangborn and daughter were taken to Oroville hospital.

Pangborn's father Allan Williams said he was so proud of Pangborn and her courage.

"I was so relieved (when he heard Pangborn and the baby were safe)," he said. "I felt my prayers had been answered. I truly believe I witnessed a modern-day miracle. I know babies are born every day and to hear such a heroic story, being all by herself for three days, it was almost unbelievable."

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