JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WJAX/WTVF/CNN) - An Uber driver from Tennessee is recovering after she risked her life by jumping out of the SUV she was driving to avoid being kidnapped, allegedly by a former customer.
Christopher Miller, 51, is accused of abducting 26-year-old Uber driver Carolina Vargas at knifepoint. He made his first court appearance Tuesday in Jacksonville, Florida, a day after he was arrested.
Vargas, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, is recovering from injuries she suffered when she jumped out of her SUV while it was going 60 miles per hour on a Georgia highway to escape from the alleged kidnapping. She lost three teeth and has a blood clot in her brain, dozens of bruises and scratches.
Vargas says she initially met Miller through her job as an Uber driver when he hired her to take him to a hotel in Cleveland, Tennessee. She says Miller contacted her directly Friday to ask for a return trip to Nashville.
During that second trip, Miller allegedly pulled a knife and told her to drive south.
“I didn’t do anything to trigger him, and he put the knife in my side and said, ‘Now, you are going to do what I say,’” Vargas said.
Vargas eventually worked up the courage to jump out of the moving SUV after she decided it was her only chance to escape.
“When he put the knife on my throat and asked me for my phone, that’s when I knew I was going to have to jump,” she said. " I just remember feeling a ball of fire where the tire drove over me. I didn’t break one bone, and I’m so grateful just to be alive. I couldn’t believe everything was so fast."
A good Samaritan stopped on the shoulder of the road to help Vargas and called police.
Police say Miller continued driving to Jacksonville in Vargas’ SUV. He was arrested Monday at a motel in the area after police tracked him by GPS through his cell phone. Officers say he was found with weapons.
Vargas says she’s relieved knowing her alleged kidnapper is behind bars. She thinks she could have been forced into sex trafficking if she had stayed in the SUV.
“I feel I can sleep. I feel relieved no other girl is going to go through this,” she said.
Uber stressed the incident did not take place during an Uber trip. It also noted it is against its community guidelines to get in contact once a trip is completed. The company says it offers safety features for drivers, including an emergency button.