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Last Saturday, George Atley made the decision to leave sister Emelia (3) and mother Tamara behind, unhurt but down a bank on a rural Southland road.
Ms Atley said the family had been on a trip to the Curio Bay beach, and decided to visit the nearby petrified forest.
However, after making a wrong turn, she attempted to turn around.
She thought her number was up as the car slid metres down a bank and flipped, and she found herself trapped upside-down.
Tree branches pressed against the car window in the gully.
George managed to free himself, help his sister and escape the overturned car unscathed.
"I remember he told me, ‘Don’t worry, Mummy, I’m going for help’," Ms Atley said.
He left his mother, unhurt, in the car. She had managed to turn around to be on her hands and knees but could not escape.
When the 5-year-old got to Tumu Toka Curioscape visitor centre car park, he yelled "help" loudly to a passing vehicle.
He had learned what to do from watching survival videos on YouTube, he said.
"I think he just Forrest Gumped it down the road. He knew he had to run to one place, and that’s what he did," Ms Atley said.
Exactly what happened on his rescue run was unclear. She was still trying to piece it all together, based on what he remembered.
"The only person who knows what happened from the minute he left the car to the information centre, is George."
The incident lasted about an hour, during which time George’s sister walked to a nearby church.
Ms Atley said she was not worried for George, but was concerned about Emelia when she wandered off.
"I spent the whole time worrying about her. As you walk down the road, it’s just a drop."
For Ms Atley, it was a tense wait with the strong smell of petrol and threat of the wrecked car dropping further down into the gully.
However, after all had escaped the car and regrouped, they found the only injury was a small scratch on George’s elbow.