• Washington Post

Gone Fishing, They Found A ‘Miracle’: A Man Survived 6 Days Trapped in A Truck

Indiana State Police
First responders extricated Matthew Reum from his crashed vehicle at Salt Creek in northwestern Indiana after a man and his son-in-law spotted the driver and his vehicle Tuesday.

Mario Garcia and his son-in-law Nivardo Delatorre thought the best way to kill some time until their wives got back home was to scout for good fishing holes near their Indiana residence on what they thought would be “a lazy day” after Christmas, they said.

But when a light in the distance caught their attention, Garcia and Delatorre found something entirely different on the bank of a shallow creek beneath an interstate bridge Tuesday afternoon: a man who had been trapped for six days inside a mangled truck.

As the men approached the wrecked truck in Portage, Ind., they moved an air bag out of the way to touch the motorist, who they believed to be dead.

“The moment I touched the shoulder, he swung around – he woke up,” Garcia said at a news conference, noting that the man, who had visible injuries, did not know how long he had been trapped. “He just mentioned he couldn’t feel his extremities.”

Garcia added that the driver – whom police identified as Matthew R. Reum, 27, of Mishawaka, Ind. – looked visibly relieved that he had been found, in a case that state authorities are hailing as a miracle.

“I’ve never seen a relief like that,” Garcia said.

Indiana State
Mario Garcia, left, and his son-in-law Nivardo Delatorre recount finding an Indiana man trapped in his mangled truck Tuesday.

Reum suffered “some severe, potentially life-threatening injuries” and was flown by a medical helicopter more than 50 miles to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind., for treatment, Sgt. Glen Fifield, a spokesman for the Indiana State Police, told reporters Tuesdays night. Garcia and Delatorre said it also appeared that Reum had a broken hand. Heidi Prescott, a spokesperson for Beacon Health System, which includes Memorial Hospital, told The Washington Post that Reum was listed in critical condition as of Wednesday morning.

A hospital statement later Wednesday included a statement from the driver: “Matt Reum wants to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and all the well wishes, including the good Samaritans who found him, the first responders and his caregivers at Memorial Hospital. He remains in critical condition at this time. He has asked not only for time to process everything that he has endured since last Wednesday, but also for time to rest and heal. Matt knows he has a story to tell, and when he is ready, he plans to share details of that experience. Until then, Matt has asked us to share this message, while also requesting privacy during this time for himself, his family and friends. He adds, ‘No matter how tough things get, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes in the least expected way.'”

Fifield said the “curiosity” of the good Samaritans helped rescue Reum, who the police spokesman said would not have survived another night stranded in the chilly December weather.

“Quite frankly, it’s a miracle he’s alive,” Fifield said, adding that temperatures in Porter County, Ind., where the wreck happened, had recently hit a low of 29 degrees. “It’s a miracle that he’s alive in this weather.”

Reum was driving his 2016 Dodge Ram truck on Interstate 94 sometime around Dec. 20 when he lost control of the vehicle for unknown reasons, according to the news release from the Indiana State Police.

“His vehicle missed that guardrail, so he’s driving on the grass shoulder before he goes airborne,” Fifield told reporters. “His vehicle goes down into the creek, where he rolls several times. It rolled underneath the bridge.”

When the truck came to rest under the interstate bridge, Reum was “pinned inside of the vehicle and was unable to call for help,” according to police. Reum later told Garcia and Delatorre that no one had responded to his screams for help.

“He says he tried yelling and screaming, but nobody would hear him,” Garcia said. “It was just quiet – just the sound of the water.”

Reum was trapped there for six days. He was able to survive for as long as he did because he drank rain water to keep himself hydrated, according to police.

“The will to survive this crash was nothing short of extraordinary,” police said.

There were no police reports of any crashes in the area, and Fifield said that authorities were not aware of any missing-person reports for Reum. The area is also out of view of the interstate highway, Fifield said.

“I looked over the bridge, and you can’t see it,” he said.

Garcia, of Hobart, Ind., and Delatorre, of Portage, were looking for something to do after Christmas. Since Garcia’s wife was at work and his daughter was out of the house, the 60-year-old man and his 31-year-old son-in-law decided to look for potential fishing holes. Garcia said the last stop of the day was Salt Creek, which is near Portage, a northwestern Indiana city about 45 miles outside of Chicago. The creek, which contains moving water, is a few feet deep and about 30 feet wide, police say.

Something shiny caught the men’s attention. When they got closer, they realized it was a wrecked truck.

“You could barely tell what it was,” Garcia said. “It was mangled completely.”

After the men learned that the driver they thought was dead actually was alive, Garcia asked Delatorre to call for help, and they stayed by Reum’s side until law enforcement arrived. The men said that Reum appeared to be shaken but maintained his composure throughout the time they were with him.

“He was alive and he was very happy to see us,” Garcia said, telling reporters that the man repeatedly thanked them for finding him. “He said to me that he’s been there for a long time that he had almost lost all hope because nobody was there.”

Fifield said dispatchers received a report at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday about a crash on I-94 near the Portage exit. The Portage Fire Department and the Burns Harbor Fire Department responded and completed an extrication process that required first responders to climb down to the wrecked vehicle at Salt Creek, authorities said.

“Had it not been for the two individuals that were walking the creek this afternoon, this incident more than likely would have had a different outcome,” police said.

Garcia and Delatorre said that they were glad they decided to make that last stop at Salt Creek to see whether it had a good fishing hole and that their curiosity helped lead them to the trapped man.

“Is it a miracle? I don’t know,” Garcia told reporters. “But I’m just glad that we were able to find him.”