Man survives for days after car plunges off cliff
CASTAIC, Calif. (AP) — A 67-year-old man who survived for five or six days on leaves and creek water after his car plunged 200 feet off a California mountain road was found by his children, who tracked him down like television detectives.
Chardonnay, Sean and Lisa Lavau appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Friday, describing how they found their father’s car and his makeshift camp in a ravine Thursday off Lake Hughes Road in the Angeles National Forest.
Another vehicle was found nearby, but its driver did not survive the crash and authorities don’t know if they are dealing with one crash or two, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Mark Savage. The accident investigation was turned over to California Highway Patrol.
After the family reported David Lavau missing, they worked with a detective to narrow the search area using cell phone towers, text messages and debit card purchases, Chardonnay Lavau told NBC and other reporters.
Lisa Lavau told KCAL-TV her family had not heard from her father for several days.
After narrowing the search area, “We stopped at every ravine, and looked over every hill and then my brother got out of the car and we kept screaming and the next thing we heard Dad saying ‘help, help,’ and there he was,” Lisa Lavau said.
Chardonnay Lavau told NBC one of the first things her father asked for after he was found was a chocolate malt.
Officials at the scene were told he might have been stranded for up to six days, Savage said.
“It’s unconfirmed, the duration, but it’s possibly a significant amount of time,” Savage said.
Fire officials responded at around 6:10 p.m. Thursday and a paramedic was lowered to David Lavau from a helicopter. He was evaluated and taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital for treatment.
David Lavau suffered multiple rib fractures, a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and multiple fractures in his back, but none of the injuries was life-threatening, said hospital spokeswoman Bhavna Mistery. He was expected to undergo surgery and it was not clear how long he would be hospitalized, she said. He was doing well and in good spirits surrounded by his family, she added.
The three family members who hiked down to him had to be assisted out of the area on foot by firefighters.
The crash occurred in a sparsely populated area about 50 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
Savage said roads in the area have sharp curves and in many areas go down to two lanes, with some steep cliffs and drops over the side.
Savage said firefighters remained on the scene late Thursday to do a thorough search of the area to make sure there were no other victims in the accident.
The identity of the deceased driver has not been released. His body was turned over to the coroner’s office.