02/22/2013 11:02 am ET Updated Feb 25, 2013

4-Year-Old Rescues Sister, 2, From Car Wreck After Mom Dies (VIDEO)

She’s only 4 years old, but after her mom was killed in a car accident, Arianna Rath stepped into the role of hero to rescue her baby sister.

Jessica Rath, of Astoria, Ore., was driving along the Washington coastline with her two daughters late Tuesday night to pick up her fisherman husband when she presumably fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree, KPTV reports. The 26-year-old mom died at the scene, but her eldest daughter Arianna, 4, had wherewithal to drag her severely injured 2-year-old sister from the car and covered her in a blanket until help arrived.

The two shivered together trying to keep warm for about six hours until two passersby noticed the fresh gash in a tree, King5 reports. Upon closer inspection, Kraai McClure and Scott Beautler found Rath’s deceased body and her two daughters struggling to stay alive.

“We’re lucky we had someone paying attention or we may not have found them for a long time,” State Patrol Trooper Russ Winger told the Seattle Times. “Hypothermia could have set in if they were found any later.”

Arianna was released from the hospital and the 2-year-old is being treated for a collapsed lung, head injury and broken legs, according to King5.

"We could tell the 2-year-old was sick and needed to be out of there right away," Bert Haven from the Naselle Volunteer Fire Department told KPTV.

Responders say that Arianna played a key role in keeping her baby sister safe.

“The fact that she had enough sense to cover her up?” Beautler told King5. “That’s awesome. She’s my hero.”

Family members declined to comment, and the Washington State Patrol is continuing to investigate the crash, according to KPTV.

Ordinary Heroes, Extraordinary Courage