Pa. girl, 9, earns hero award for saving her friends after car crash
Mahliyah crawled back into the car, where she saw that the younger child’s head was bleeding, and lifted her out of her seat and through the trunk to safety
By Michelle Merlin
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Nine-year-old Mahliyah Perez was on her way to her first sleepover when things got topsy-turvy.
She remembers the car she was riding in suddenly tumbling and landing upside down. She saw the driver’s and passengers’ heads bobbing unnaturally from side to side.
The car had hydroplaned, skidded off Twin Ponds Road in Upper Macungie Township, rolled over and come to a stop between two trees. Her friend’s mother was driving the car, and her friend was in the front passenger’s seat. Mahliyah was sitting in the back with her friend’s younger sister.
"Are you guys alright?” Mahliyah asked. She waited for an answer before telling them she would get help.
Then she gave herself a bit of advice she learned from watching rescue videos on YouTube with her brother and sister: Stay calm.
What happened next after the April 26 crash would inspire the Cetronia Ambulance Corps to create a Citizen Hero Award, which its CEO presented to Mahliyah on Wednesday.
Mahliyah saw light coming through the back of the car and headed for it, pushing the trunk open and climbing out. On the side of the road, in the pouring rain, she signaled for help from a passing motorist, who called 911. When the woman offered Mahliyah a ride back to the scene, the girl, a Cetronia Elementary School fourth grader at the time, declined because she knew she shouldn’t accept a ride from a stranger.
Returning to the scene, Mahliyah crawled back into the car, where she saw that the younger child’s head was bleeding. She lifted the child out of her seat and through the trunk to safety.
“I didn’t care if I got blood on me,” she said at the ceremony. The younger girl was able to walk, but Mahliyah carried her to make sure she didn’t get cut on the debris.
Her friend was able to get out on her own. But emergency responders had to free the driver.
“The whole time she remained completely stoic like she wasn’t afraid and she wasn’t crying,” said paramedic Jenn Eicholtz, who met Mahliyah on the scene. “She did what needed to be done. We see some adults that don’t take that kind of action.”
Eicholtz was so impressed, she suggested the ambulance corps reward Mahliyah for her actions, and CEO Larry Wiersch heartily agreed.
In giving Mahliyah her medal, Wiersch told the girl she was being recognized “for doing all the great things that you did and doing the right thing all the time.”
Joining Mahliyah at the ceremony at the corps’ headquarters in South Whitehall Township were her mother, Alecia Aungst, and her twin 8-year-old siblings — Julian and Julianna. Mahliyah and her siblings not only watch emergency responder videos, they’re comfortable around fire stations, sirens and trucks. Their grandfather and two uncles are firefighters.
Mahliyah’s actions after the crash didn’t surprise her mother, who said she’s always been a caring kid. At day care, she once was recognized with a “mother hen,” award, she added.
“Growing up with younger siblings, she’s always been like a little mom, and just such a big help to me,” Aungst said. “She always tries to go the extra mile to help people.”
Now Mahliyah constantly tells her mother to drive carefully and slow down.
She has advice for everyone else, too, if they’re ever in a similar situation.
“Stay calm,” she said. “I know you feel like panicking, but try and stay calm. And as long as everybody’s OK and alive, that’s also what matters the most.”
Morning Call reporter Michelle Merlin can be reached at 610-820-6533 or at email@example.com.
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