A Scary Crash, but Lives Saved, Thanks to Apple iPhone Tech and a Well-Built Steel Frame

Christian Zelada'S Hyundai Elantra At The Bottom Of A Canyon

New age technology, where you see it and where you don’t.

The Apple iPhone 14 was credited for saving Cloe Fields and Christian Zelada when their car tumbled off a road and 300 feet into a California canyon this week. But without the steel of their Hyundai Elantra surrounding them, the iPhone would have not had anyone to save.

It’s a chilling story: Christian was at the wheel as they drove along the Angeles Crest Highway, a scenic two-lane highway that runs through the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles. The road is known and loved by performance and sports car enthusiasts for its hairpin turns and fast curves. It’s a road I’ve driven a lot and I’ve seen many drivers falling to the temptation of its curves and hills. I get it; it’s a lot of fun — as long as you don’t crash.

Related: The magic thing that keeps you safe on the road. Yes, we’re talking about steel

Christian Zelada'S Hyundai Elantra At The Bottom Of A Canyon

Christian Zelada’s Hyundai Elantra at the bottom of a canyon. Photo: KTLA

A Lovely Day Turns Horrific

As Cloe and Christian drove, another car came up quickly behind them and honked the horn, so they pulled off the road to let it pass. But the Elantra’s tires slipped over the edge of the road and the car tumbled down the hill, landing top down in a creek bed. 

Miraculously, the two were able to get out of the car. Cloe found her phone a few feet away; new technology in the phone sensed the crash and offered help. She was able to align the phone with a satellite (since the phone could not establish a cell signal) and inform first responders of the crash. Shortly, the two were rescued by a helicopter and hoisted to safety, with only a few minor injuries. 

Related: A Girl’s Guide to Car Safety

A Helicopter Hovers To Rescue The Couple

A helicopter hovers to rescue the couple. Photo: KTLA

Crashes are Common, And So Are Deaths

Do a Google search of Angeles Crest Highway and Crash and you’ll find story after story of cars plunging into canyons, rolling over and  killing the driver and passengers.

And while all cars have passenger roll cages designed to protect passengers in a crash, that’s not always possible. So it’s especially amazing that Cloe and Christian were able to climb out of the Elantra relatively unhurt. 

Tiger Woods can relate. Nearly two years ago his Genesis GV 80, which is also built by Hyundai, veered off a highway and rolled over, nearly killing him. Many experts attribute the steel roll cage with saving his life. 

Related: The Safest Cars on the Road: New Technology Adds Up to Safety for Everyone

The Hyundai Elantra'S Steel Frame, Color Coded To Illustrate Different Steel Strengths

The Hyundai Elantra’s steel frame, color coded to illustrate different steel strengths. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How Steel Protects Passengers

Hyundai, like many auto makers, has a tremendous amount of pride in the techniques and materials they use in building a car’s frame, including lots of steel. And, the steel they use isn’t equal to the steel used in cars even a decade ago. Manufacturers have worked to make steel stronger, thinner and lighter weight. And they’ve developed thinner but stronger welds, lighter weight materials and glue to use where steel isn’t necessary. 

This results in a reinforced passenger compartment, with pillars between the doors and roof that are designed to withstand incredible force. Then, panels and sections such as the trunk or front bumpers are designed to crush under pressure, essentially absorbing the energy of the crash. Sections that connect them are designed to push away from the passenger compartment so that passengers are not hurt. 

Just looking at the hill that Cloe and Christian’s car tumbled down is chilling. Seeing their car crushed in the creek, it’s amazing to know they survived. Certainly, the speed, trajectory and other factors contributed to their survival. But so did technology: in the iPhone and in the structure of the Hyundai they were driving. 

The Iphone 14 Will Guide Users To A Satellite Connection In An Emergency

The iPhone 14 will guide users to a satellite connection in an emergency. Photo: KTLA

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss