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Ravine-Ordeal Girl Leaves Hospital

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AP
A little girl who survived 10 days in a ravine after a car crash that killed her mother was released from the hospital Thursday.

Ruby Bustamante, 5, smiled at reporters as she was rolled out of Riverside Regional Medical Center in a wheelchair. She had a cast on her right leg and a bandage on her left hand, in which she held a cup of ice cream.

A hospital spokeswoman said Ruby suffered a knee fracture and an infection on her left ring finger due to a minor cut.

Ruby survived her ordeal by eating dry noodles and drinking Gatorade. Her family marveled at her good fortune but mourned the death of her 26-year-old mother, Norma Bustamante.

"We want to thank everyone for their support and prayers in this time of need, especially God," said Ruby's aunt, Rose Lopez. "We want to thank God for this miracle, for protecting Ruby and for comforting the family."

Relatives said Ruby and her mother left their Indio home on April 4 to visit the mother's boyfriend. Relatives reported both missing the next day, but authorities could find no trace of them until state highway workers spotted their crashed Ford Taurus at the bottom of a ravine on Tuesday.

The coroner's office said Wednesday that Norma Bustamante likely died within minutes of the crash. She was ejected from the car, officials said.

Grief-stricken relatives criticized authorities for not moving quickly with the search. The Highway Patrol had searched the area after a woman reported seeing a car go off the highway on April 4.

Rose Lopez has also criticized the Indio Police Department as seeming to not take the family's missing persons report seriously.

Police are facing questions over how they handled the search for the pair, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales. The California Highway Patrol is conducting an internal investigation.

Indio police Sgt. Richard Banasiak said authorities entered the names of the mother and daughter in a national computer database for missing persons while the family posted fliers throughout the area. He said the search was hampered by the rugged terrain.

Ruby's age was initially reported as 5 and then 6. The hospital would not release the age because of confidentiality law but the Highway Patrol report listed her birth date as Jan. 4, 1999.

Moreno Valley is about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.