LONGVIEW, Wash. — A Cowlitz County man was found alive in his truck at the bottom of a ravine near Longview and rescued by firefighters over the weekend, more than five days after he was reported missing.
Residents near the intersection of Sunset Way and Lone Oak Road called 911 Sunday morning and reported seeing tire tracks leaving the road and a small green truck at the bottom of a nearby ravine, according to a news release from Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue.
Dispatchers realized that the residents’ description of the truck seemed to match the vehicle of a 56-year-old man who had been reported missing more than five days earlier, according to C2FR Battalion Chief Joe Tone.
Cowlitz County Sheriff’s deputies at the site confirmed that they’d been looking for the man for nearly a week. The man was not named in the news release.
The ravine was described as steep and heavily wooded, and the truck had gone down to about 150 feet from the road and landed wheels-down at the bottom.
Firefighters could make out what appeared to be a person in the truck, Tone said, but they weren’t moving. Firefighters were “expecting the worst” as they hiked down to the truck, according to the news release.
“When they got down there, we figured out that the male inside the car was indeed alive,” Tone said. “Severely injured and ill from being in the car five days. Malnourished, temperature extremes from day to night.”
The man was barely conscious and wasn’t able to tell the firefighters about his injuries, Tone said, so they had to rely on their paramedic training to evaluate him.
The crash site was fairly well-shaded, Tone said, which likely kept the car temperature cool during the day and decreased the progression of dehydration, but it’s still unclear how the man managed to survive for five days.
“No idea,” Tone said. “We weren’t able to locate a cell phone or any food or anything like that.”
The rescue required getting more firefighters down to the site, Tone said, plus equipment to haul the man back up and tools to clear a path through the brush. The Longview Fire Department was called in to assist with setting up a rope rescue system.
“They sent everybody they had on duty to help us out,” Tone said, “with their rope rescue technicians and equipment necessary to get people out of extreme terrain.”
The fire crews ordered a Life Flight helicopter while they were setting up the rope system, Tone said, but there was no good place to land due to the heavily wooded and hilly terrain, so the crew flew to a nearby school to wait.
Once lifted up the hill, the man was taken by ambulance to the helicopter and then flown to PeaceHealth Southwest for treatment. Rescuing him and getting him onto the helicopter took about one hour, according to the news release, and Tone said the effort involved about 19 first responders.
© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.