Apol Lansang was driving south on Highway 101 Saturday, en route to the weekly Bible study hosted by her aunt in Sonoma, when out of the corner of her eye, Lansang saw an oncoming SUV veer into her lane.
It was about 8 a.m. and sunny, and the 25-year-old deeply spiritual nurse was enjoying her trip — listening to music and driving at the speed limit on the curving, four-lane highway through the hills just north of Cloverdale.
“I remember I was listening to a song, and the next thing I knew I saw an SUV driving toward my lane,” she said. “I questioned myself, ‘Does he know what he’s doing? Why is he in front of me, driving in my lane?’ I’m thinking, ‘Am I in the wrong lane?’”
In that moment, with Rachel Platten’s “Stand by You” streaming through her speakers, she considered her options: turn right toward the edge of the roadway and face a steep drop, or turn left into oncoming traffic.
She chose left, closed her eyes, and the two collided.
“I hoped that when I opened my eyes, it would be just a dream,” she said. “In that moment, all I’m thinking is, ‘God, please save me. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope that when I wake up from this nightmare, I’m saved.’”
The force of the crash tore her white Chevrolet Impala down the middle.
The passenger half of Lansang’s car flew onto the hillside in front of her. The Toyota Sequoia that crashed into her was sent spinning, ejecting driver Kevin Fenty, who landed on the pavement a short way away from the front of his SUV.
When Lansang opened her eyes, she started screaming. Surveying the carnage of her car, she looked onto the hillside and saw what she at first thought was another vehicle involved in the crash. Witnesses later told her it was, in fact, the other half of her own Impala.
Lansang was unfathomably OK, save for a few bruises and a lingering pain that shoots down her leg when she sits too long or makes any sudden movements, she said.
If Lansang hadn’t been wearing a seat belt, the outcome would have been vastly different, CHP Officer Kylar Adams said.
“It’s amazing the woman survived the crash,” Adams said. “I would 100 percent put it on the seat belt. The seat belt truly saved her life. … Sometimes amazing things happen.”
Both drivers were taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for their injuries. After being released, Fenty, 27, of Huntington Beach, was booked into Mendocino County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, possession of marijuana and driving without a license. As of Wednesday, he was still in jail on a $50,000 bond.
“I have no ill feeling about him,” Lansang said Tuesday while recuperating in the Sonoma home she shares with her family.
A video of the wreckage shared Sunday on Facebook quickly went viral, seen by 3.9 million people over the next four days. The images of the horrific crash and the story of its miraculous outcome were picked up by news media outlets in the Bay Area and around the world.
As to how Lansang survived, she believes her faith in God saved her.
“(Spirituality) is like my own getaway from the whole world, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m here,” Lansang said. “I’ve always devoted myself to God in any way I could. That’s how I decided to become a nurse, to give rather than receive.”
Lansang was born in the Philippine capital of Manila and immigrated with her family to America in 2003, when she was 12. She attended Sonoma Valley High School and got her nursing degree at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“I’ve always wanted to just be an instrument to God,” she said. “There’s something more that I need to accomplish in my life. I don’t know exactly what it is yet, but I know that it has to do with helping others.”
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeaWarren.