A Californian driver lay injured in a remote ravine for six days near a body in another crashed car.
David Lavau, 68, survived by eating ants and leaves and drinking creek water, a doctor said.
Lavau was rescued on Friday by his three adult children, who took matters into their own hands after a detective told them his last mobile phone signal came from a rugged section of the Angeles National Forest.
They drove slowly along the perilously curved mountain road, stopping to peer over the treacherous drop-offs and call out for their missing father.
Then, finally, a faint cry: “Help, help.” The voice from the wilderness may also have brought closure to another family and another missing person’s case.
Near him they found a body in another car that belonged to an 88-year-old man, reported missing 10 days earlier.
Lavau was in serious but stable condition in hospital yesterday with three rib fractures, a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and fractures in his back, said emergency room physician Dr Garrett Sutter.
Dr Ranbir Singh, the hospital’s trauma director, said Lavau told him he was driving home about 7pm when he was temporarily blinded by the headlights of an oncoming car.
He braked but skidded and the car flipped and plunged down the embankment.
The second car was identified as belonging to Melvin Gelfand, whose family had reported him missing on September 14.
The body found in the car could not be visually identified due to decomposition, but the coroner’s office was trying to match fingerprints or dental records to make a positive identification.
Lavau spent the night in his wrecked car and crawled out in daylight.
He found a flare in the other car and tried to light it, but it was expired. He also couldn’t find his cellphone.
Lavau could hear cars and see their lights on the road above and was hopeful he would be discovered, but as time passed, he grew more uncertain.
“He mentally said goodbye to his family,” Singh said. “He wasn’t sure anyone would be able to find him.” His children, meanwhile, began searching for him. “We stopped at every ravine and looked over every hill. “Then my brother got out of the car and we kept screaming. “The next thing we heard was Dad saying, ‘Help, help,’ and there he was,” Lisa Lavau said.
Sean Lavau slid down the embankment to reach his father, who was airlifted to the hospital while firefighters helped his children get back up the ravine.
Lisa Lavau said while her father was stranded, he used the other driver’s glasses so that he could see.