Blinded by headlights, driver veers into creek near Kelso, sleeps overnight in trunk before rescue

Published: Dec. 10, 2022 at 4:31 PM PST
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COWLITZ COUNTY, Wash. (KPTV) - An 83-year-old man was rescued Saturday morning from a creek at the bottom of a 25-foot slope, after spending the night in his car’s trunk in Cowlitz County.

Cowlitz County Fire & Rescue 2 said the 83-year-old man drove off North Goble Creek Road at about 8:30 p.m. Friday. He was driving home when another car turned the corner, blinding him with the headlights. The distraction caused him to swerve off the side of the road.

Neighbors said roads are dark and narrow in this rural area of southwest Washington.

“No street lights here,” a neighbor said. “Kind of a two-land road, but it’s kind of small, very windy.”

The man’s car came to rest partially in a creek bed with water coming inside.

“His horn was submerged underneath the water, as was the cab of his vehicle,” said Lt. Kurt Stich with Cowlitz County Fire & Rescue 2.

The man could not find his cell phone and could not get out of his vehicle. He made his way to the trunk of his car and slept there the rest of the night.

At about 6:30 a.m., he finally found his cell phone when it started beeping with a low batter alert. He then called 911 for help.

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Cowlitz County Fire & Rescue crews used multiple ladders to reach an 83-year-old man down a...
Cowlitz County Fire & Rescue crews used multiple ladders to reach an 83-year-old man down a 25-foot slope early Saturday morning.(Cowlitz County Fire & Rescue 2)

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and firefighters responded and used multiple ladders and ropes to reach the man and bring him to safety. The rescue took about three hours to complete, according to Lt. Stich.

The man was taken to PeaceHealth St. John’s Medical Center with chest injuries, an ankle injury and effects from exposure to cold weather.

Stich said everyone should be prepared with an emergency kit, especially during the cold weather season.

“Nutritional bars, shakes, water. Other kind of clothing that might come up, gloves,” he said. “Flashlights, extra batteries for flashlights, the ability to charge things.”