A driver trapped in his Jeep as it dangled on a California cliff thought he would die — and he might have, had it not been for skid marks and the woman who spotted them, local authorities said.
Laurie Bowers, of Happy Camp, California, said she was driving to Oregon the morning of May 18 for lunch with her daughter when she noticed tracks leading off a rural road in the Siskiyou Mountains, just before the road hit the state line, KPTV reports.
“I come upon some tracks going over the cliff there — and I drove down the road a little ways and I thought, ‘Well, maybe I better go back,’” Bowers said, according to the TV station. “When I looked over, the Jeep was down over the mountain.”
The SUV was lodged 50 feet down the side of an embankment, which had a steep slope of 40 degrees or more, according to an Illinois Valley Fire District Facebook post. All that kept the Jeep from tumbling 1,000 feet further to the bottom of the ravine was “a single tree,” firefighters said.
First responders were dispatched to rescue the driver just after 10 a.m. — but he’d been trapped there since 2 a.m., according to the fire district.
Rescuers secured the vehicle and then paramedics began to care for the man, who was suffering from hypothermia, internal bleeding and a “badly fractured leg.”
“This was a very difficult rescue due to the degree of slope and the location of the patient,” authorities wrote in the Facebook post, sharing photos from the rescue. “His first words to the rescuers were ‘I thought I was going to die in my car.’”
But the crew managed to lower equipment into the ravine, stabilize the driver and then bring him back up. He was taken to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center by helicopter, rescuers said.
Authorities did not name the driver but said he was in his 30s or 40s, the Oregonian reported on Saturday.
Rescuers singled out Bowers for thanks.
“It’s a good thing she was traveling by,” Ned Booth of the Illinois Valley Fire District said, according to the Oregonian.
If she had just continued driving to Oregon for lunch with her daughter that morning, “the patient would have most likely died,” rescuers wrote.
“The vehicle was not visible from the road,” rescuers explained. “She saw the skid marks, stopped to investigate, and call 911.”
Bowers said she hopes others would do the same.
“Just be more alert to what’s going on when you are on these mountain roads, especially early in the morning,” Bowers said, according to KPTV.