Airborne off a cliff: The story of a fiery rescue

By Austin Dave

Last update: Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Bloodied bruised and broken, Nicholas Klima rests in his yellow hospital gown.

The 16-year-old’s closest friend Tyler Lopez sits at his bedside.

“He did it behind our back without our knowing,” Joanna Klima said of her son Nicholas.

“This is the outcome.”

Both teenagers were admitted to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Saturday for treatment of injuries sustained in a rollover crash near Plum Canyon.

Among Nicholas Klima’s many injuries is a broken pelvis and two broken ankles.

But Klima had very little recollection of the crash. Lopez, however, recalled the moments leading up to it.

Airborne off cliff

“We were supposed to go to my house after taekwondo,” Lopez said. “Then he said ‘let me show you something cool.’”

The pair drove up to a hillside near the intersection of Griffith and Martellus drives in Saugus.

“We were going pretty fast,” Lopez said. “Maybe 40, 50 or 60 miles per hour.”

The boy, also 16 years old, said Klima panicked when the vehicle hit a patch of dirt and instead of engaging the brakes, he floored the gas pedal.

The car careened off the edge of a cliff and was airborne for about 175 feet. The older model Scion TC then oriented into a nosedive and slammed hood-first into the ground.

“I don’t remember (the car) rolling,” Lopez said. “All I remember is the first impact and the windshield shattering.”

The boy took a pause as a bewildered glaze overtook his face. After a moment, he continued on.

“After that I think the airbag knocked me out,” he said, trying to gain an understanding of the situation they were in.

Bursting into flames

As the vehicle came to a rest it burst into flames. Thick black smoke billowed over the scene and soon drew attention from people miles away.

Lopez freed himself and crawled out of the wreckage via what had been the sunroof.

But the clock was ticking for Nicholas Klima who was trapped in the vehicle.

Flames roaring from the engine compartment grew higher and threatened to reach the cabin. Emergency crews were minutes away.

A firefighter moves a hose line into position after vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Two occupants were transported by ambulance, extent of injuries unknown on Saturday afternoon. Dan Watson/The Signal
A firefighter moves a hose line into position after vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Two occupants were transported by ambulance, extent of injuries unknown on Saturday afternoon. Dan Watson/The Signal

Klima, once full of life, began counting down his last moments.

“This is how I’m going to die and there’s no way I’m going to survive through this,” Nicholas Klima recalled as two men entered his hospital room.

Good Samaritans

The two, about average height each embraced a teary-eyed Joanna Klima. The men were about a block away from Griffith Drive on a construction job when the crash occurred.

They ran to the scene.

After a seconds-long assessment of the situation, the pair approached the burning coupe.

Scorching flames didn’t keep Mauricio Pineda and Jaime Caldero back.

Working with their weathered hands, they used a pocket knife to slice through the seatbelt straps holding Nicholas Klima back from the fiery inferno raging below.

Choking on smoke, Pineda and Caldero removed the restraints and carried the injured boy to safety.

The occupant of a vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire (seen in the distance) is transported by ambulance from the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal
The occupant of a vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire (seen in the distance) is transported by ambulance from the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Their story brings Joanna Klima to tears.

“(Pineda) said ‘it’s something anybody would do,’ but I don’t believe that,” the mother said.

But the men politely disagreed; and then shook hands with the boys.

Debt of gratitude

Nicholas Klima struggles with feeling an overwhelming debt of gratitude for the construction workers who, along with paramedics and firefighters, the boy credits with saving his life.

Mauricio Pineda, left, meets Nicholas Klima, right, and Tyler Lopez, center, after helping rescue them from a burning car after Klima crashed off on Plum Canyon Road on Saturday. Klima doesn't remember the accident. Pineda was working construction in the area, and ran to help the boys. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Mauricio Pineda, left, meets Nicholas Klima, right, and Tyler Lopez, center, after helping rescue them from a burning car after Klima crashed off on Plum Canyon Road on Saturday. Klima doesn’t remember the accident. Pineda was working construction in the area, and ran to help the boys. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“Is there any way I can repay you,” the injured boy asked. “Because I do want to.”

The man refused, but the teenager’s mother suggested her son pay the good deed forward by speaking out against reckless driving.

Joanna Klima, right, hugs Maritez Lopez, left, as they listen to Lopez's son, Tyler, 16, talk about the crash that almost killed him and friend Nicholas Klima, also 16, on Saturday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Joanna Klima, right, hugs Maritez Lopez, left, as they listen to Lopez’s son, Tyler, 16, talk about the crash that almost killed him and friend Nicholas Klima, also 16, on Saturday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

With a building frustration, the boy began to list off what he anticipated telling his friends.

“Don’t drive off a cliff because you think it’s cool,” he said.

“Don’t go and drift a corner because you think it’s cool.”

Joanna Klima plans to reach out to parents to draw attention to what she a growing trend.

“It’s really scary the things that can happen when they’re out doing this ‘drifting,’” she said.

“We need to really watch our kids and their driving especially when a lot of them are 16 years old and think they are indispensable.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to post a comment

Airborne off a cliff: The story of a fiery rescue

Bloodied bruised and broken, Nicholas Klima rests in his yellow hospital gown.

The 16-year-old’s closest friend Tyler Lopez sits at his bedside.

“He did it behind our back without our knowing,” Joanna Klima said of her son Nicholas.

“This is the outcome.”

Both teenagers were admitted to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Saturday for treatment of injuries sustained in a rollover crash near Plum Canyon.

Among Nicholas Klima’s many injuries is a broken pelvis and two broken ankles.

But Klima had very little recollection of the crash. Lopez, however, recalled the moments leading up to it.

Airborne off cliff

“We were supposed to go to my house after taekwondo,” Lopez said. “Then he said ‘let me show you something cool.’”

The pair drove up to a hillside near the intersection of Griffith and Martellus drives in Saugus.

“We were going pretty fast,” Lopez said. “Maybe 40, 50 or 60 miles per hour.”

The boy, also 16 years old, said Klima panicked when the vehicle hit a patch of dirt and instead of engaging the brakes, he floored the gas pedal.

The car careened off the edge of a cliff and was airborne for about 175 feet. The older model Scion TC then oriented into a nosedive and slammed hood-first into the ground.

“I don’t remember (the car) rolling,” Lopez said. “All I remember is the first impact and the windshield shattering.”

The boy took a pause as a bewildered glaze overtook his face. After a moment, he continued on.

“After that I think the airbag knocked me out,” he said, trying to gain an understanding of the situation they were in.

Bursting into flames

As the vehicle came to a rest it burst into flames. Thick black smoke billowed over the scene and soon drew attention from people miles away.

Lopez freed himself and crawled out of the wreckage via what had been the sunroof.

But the clock was ticking for Nicholas Klima who was trapped in the vehicle.

Flames roaring from the engine compartment grew higher and threatened to reach the cabin. Emergency crews were minutes away.

A firefighter moves a hose line into position after vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Two occupants were transported by ambulance, extent of injuries unknown on Saturday afternoon. Dan Watson/The Signal
A firefighter moves a hose line into position after vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Two occupants were transported by ambulance, extent of injuries unknown on Saturday afternoon. Dan Watson/The Signal

Klima, once full of life, began counting down his last moments.

“This is how I’m going to die and there’s no way I’m going to survive through this,” Nicholas Klima recalled as two men entered his hospital room.

Good Samaritans

The two, about average height each embraced a teary-eyed Joanna Klima. The men were about a block away from Griffith Drive on a construction job when the crash occurred.

They ran to the scene.

After a seconds-long assessment of the situation, the pair approached the burning coupe.

Scorching flames didn’t keep Mauricio Pineda and Jaime Caldero back.

Working with their weathered hands, they used a pocket knife to slice through the seatbelt straps holding Nicholas Klima back from the fiery inferno raging below.

Choking on smoke, Pineda and Caldero removed the restraints and carried the injured boy to safety.

The occupant of a vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire (seen in the distance) is transported by ambulance from the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal
The occupant of a vehicle that rolled down a hill and caught fire (seen in the distance) is transported by ambulance from the Plum Canyon area on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Their story brings Joanna Klima to tears.

“(Pineda) said ‘it’s something anybody would do,’ but I don’t believe that,” the mother said.

But the men politely disagreed; and then shook hands with the boys.

Debt of gratitude

Nicholas Klima struggles with feeling an overwhelming debt of gratitude for the construction workers who, along with paramedics and firefighters, the boy credits with saving his life.

Mauricio Pineda, left, meets Nicholas Klima, right, and Tyler Lopez, center, after helping rescue them from a burning car after Klima crashed off on Plum Canyon Road on Saturday. Klima doesn't remember the accident. Pineda was working construction in the area, and ran to help the boys. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Mauricio Pineda, left, meets Nicholas Klima, right, and Tyler Lopez, center, after helping rescue them from a burning car after Klima crashed off on Plum Canyon Road on Saturday. Klima doesn’t remember the accident. Pineda was working construction in the area, and ran to help the boys. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“Is there any way I can repay you,” the injured boy asked. “Because I do want to.”

The man refused, but the teenager’s mother suggested her son pay the good deed forward by speaking out against reckless driving.

Joanna Klima, right, hugs Maritez Lopez, left, as they listen to Lopez's son, Tyler, 16, talk about the crash that almost killed him and friend Nicholas Klima, also 16, on Saturday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Joanna Klima, right, hugs Maritez Lopez, left, as they listen to Lopez’s son, Tyler, 16, talk about the crash that almost killed him and friend Nicholas Klima, also 16, on Saturday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

With a building frustration, the boy began to list off what he anticipated telling his friends.

“Don’t drive off a cliff because you think it’s cool,” he said.

“Don’t go and drift a corner because you think it’s cool.”

Joanna Klima plans to reach out to parents to draw attention to what she a growing trend.

“It’s really scary the things that can happen when they’re out doing this ‘drifting,’” she said.

“We need to really watch our kids and their driving especially when a lot of them are 16 years old and think they are indispensable.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Austin Dave

Austin Dave

Austin Dave is an award-winning multimedia journalist. He heads The Signal's video news operations while reporting on the Santa Clarita Valley's most impacting topics.