A 35-year-old woman about to give birth for the fourth time became lost in a northern California forest, gave birth, watched bees and mosquitos attack the placenta, then set fire to the forest in a desperate attempt to alert rescuers to her predicament.
On Thursday, June 25, Amber Pangborn went into labor on the way to her parents’ house, and decided to take an unfamiliar short-cut through the forest. She told Action News Now, “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.”
After running out of gas on the French Camp Road in the Plumas National Forest, she gave birth to her daughter, Marisa, then survived on apples for two days. Panghorn told KCRA-TV, “I thought we were going to die. And there was no cell service, there was no…there was nothing.”
Once the bees and mosquitos attacked, she told KCRA, “I tried to not get them to sting her.” By Saturday, Pangorn was desperate, recalling, “I was just there at the end, thinking, ‘Oh my God.” I wasn’t sure if we were going to actually get out of there.”
She finally made a fire in a cry for help, but it spread quickly. She recalled, “Like, the whole side of the mountain caught on fire. I was looking at Marisa and was like, ‘I think Mommy just started a forest fire.’”
U.S. Forest Service officials received reports of smoke in the area, and sent a fire engine and helicopter, which ultimately found Panghorn. She said, “I was crying, I was so happy. I thought we were gonna die. I’m so glad someone had finally seen us.”
Pangborn’s mother, Dianna Williams, told the Los Angeles Times that Panghorn, who had undergone gastric bypass surgery years ago, had wanted to induce labor. She said, “They would have never found her if she didn’t start the fire. She was worried what the wild animals would do.”
Williams knew Panghorn was coming to her home; when Panghorn did not arrive on Thursday, Williams put out a Facebook message asking if anyone knew where her daughter was.
Pangborn was taken to a hospital in Oroville and released; Marisa was taken to UC Davis Medical Center and was pronounced in good condition.
Forest Service supervisor Chris French told the Times that his office could not confirm whether Panghorn’s story was true because no one from the Service was there when the baby was born.