11:55 PM on 16th June 2011
As Miss Alabama USA, Madeline Mitchell is one of the beauties fighting to win the Miss USA pageant this weekend.
But that the 22-year-old has even reached this stage is a huge achievement, given that her efforts to win the Miss Alabama title in 2008 were destroyed following a horrific car crash.
She spent 12 days in a coma, while severe damage to her legs meant that she was forced to spend months learning to walk again, and left her covered in scars.
In a new interview, she revealed today how she had been driving with her boyfriend just days before she was due to compete when her car plunged down a 40ft ravine and caught fire after she lost control.
She told Good Morning America: ‘I was on my way home and… a deer ran out in front of me.
‘I actually hit the deer and lost control of my car and went off a 40ft ravine and my car caught fire. I remember everything. The accident, it was horrible.’
Both she and her boyfriend were trapped in the vehicle after it caught fire.
‘I did not think that I was going to live,’ she continued. ‘I was just praying to God that a miracle would happen.’
But in a lucky sequence of events that would save her life, a witness of the crash flagged down Walmart driver Gary Lewellen, who had a fire extinguisher in his truck.
Mr Lewellen, from Mississippi, who was also interviewed in the GMA segment, recalled: ‘I stopped, jumped out, grabbed my fire extinguisher and go down there to put the fire out.
‘We really didn’t know how bad she was hurt. I just knew it was bad because every time we’d try to move her, she would scream.’
Miss Mitchell and her boyfriend both survived, but her injuries were so severe she stayed in a coma for nearly two weeks.
Her parents, Suzanne and John Mitchell, kept a bedside vigil at the hospital.
Miss Mitchell told how her father was the first person she saw when she regained consciousness.
‘He was standing over my bed, and he said tears just rolled out of my eyes,’ she said.
‘I said, “Am I going to be able to compete in the pageant?” And, of course, he just rubbed my head and he’s like, “Not this year.”‘
The beauty queen had broken her ribs, and punctured a lung, as well as suffering a number of internal injuries.
Against all odds: Miss Mitchell was told she would not be able to compete in pageants due to her many scars
Her leg was also broken in 12 places, and doctors feared she may never walk again. But Miss Mitchell is nothing if not determined, her mother revealed.
She told the show: ‘She just wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Just would not.’
But her Miss Alabama title did not come easy. Many told her that her scars would prevent her from winning any serious competitions, and when she entered the state-wide pageant in 2009, soon after her accident, she failed to even make the top ten.
Last year, however, she won.
‘I can’t describe to you what I felt, because some people had told me I would never be able to compete again, because I had so many scars,’ she admitted.
This Sunday will see her take her place alongside all the other Miss USA hopefuls in a grand finale in Las Vegas.
But Miss Mitchell, who is an education major and hopes to become a teacher, says just getting this far is a huge achievement.
‘Win or lose, I’ve accomplished so many things in this last year,’ she said. ‘I hope to be a great educator, teacher [and] encourage all my students to fulfill their dreams.’
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
41453955 49238533 73
her path of destiny / how she learns what she is here to learn = Broken leg. Employment.