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NASELLE, Wash. (AP) - Passing motorists who stopped to investigate a damaged tree in southwest Washington found two young Oregon girls injured in a car crash that killed their mother, authorities say.

The Washington State Patrol estimates the car driven by 26-year-old Jessica Marie Rath of Astoria, Ore., hit the tree sometime early Wednesday morning.

The crashed vehicle wasn't visible from State Highway 401 south of Naselle.

The 4-year-old girl apparently pulled her more seriously injured 2-year-old sister from the car and covered both of them with a blanket, Trooper Russ Winger said. The overnight temperature was in the low 40s.

Kraai McClure and Scott Beautler were driving by the spot when they stopped to check out the gashed tree trunk, they told KING-TV. They found the woman dead and the little girls huddled in the cold and rain.

Beautler called the 4-year-old a hero.

"We were just doing a deed," he told KING. "She saved her sister's life."

The girls were taken first to an Astoria hospital, where their father met them. The 2-year-old was airlifted to a Portland hospital, Winger said.

The mother had driven Tuesday night to the Hoquiam, Wash., area to pick up her fisherman husband but then headed south when she found out her husband's boat was headed elsewhere, the trooper said.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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