Missing man found alive 5 days after crash
By JEAN TARBETT - The Herald-Dispatch
DUNLOW, WV -- A five-day search ended in tears of relief Sunday for rescue workers and community members who had been searching for one of their own.
They had been sifting through snow and ice in southern Wayne County since Wednesday, searching for Robert Ward, 32, an emergency medical technician with the Dunlow Volunteer Fire Department who had driven off an embankment.
He was found around noon Sunday, after having fallen more than 100 feet off the side of Pen Coal Haul Road in Dunlow. He and his Ford LTD, which had a white roof, were buried in snow at least four days.
"Itís a miracle," said Diann Moore, a fellow EMT at the Dunlow fire department. "His words when we found him were, ĎI was getting ready to go to sleep for the last time.í "
Ward had been drinking melted snow that he had stuffed into a pop can and had been using a lighter and any paper he could find in the car to keep a fire going, she said. When he was found, he was wearing just a T-shirt, having already burned his pants and other outerwear for warmth, Moore said.
He was in stable condition at St. Maryís Medical Center Sunday night, a nursing supervisor said. Further information about his condition could not be disclosed at that time, she said.
Moore said he was undergoing surgery for a dislocated hip and might lose a couple of toes to frostbite.
"Iím worried, but I thank God," said Wardís grandfather, Bob Backus of Kermit, who raised Ward. "Heís very fortunate heís alive."
A security guard at Pen Coal Corp., Ward was on his way to work last week when he went over the side of the road and fell as many as 150 feet, Moore said.
"Iím thinking he hit a patch of black ice and went right over the hill," Backus said. "He was in the middle of nowhere. That hollow is about 8 miles long."
Among those helping the police and the fire departments search were community members, the Division of Natural Resources and representatives of Pen Coal and Massey Coal, Moore said.
"We had people on horses, on four-wheelers and on foot," Moore said. Massey Coal lent a helicopter for a day, she said.
Ward apparently heard vehicles searching the area Sunday and began to yell for help, Moore said.
Thatís when he was found.
Tears were plentiful as workers finally pulled him -- conscious but badly frostbitten and suffering from hypothermia -- from his car Sunday afternoon, she said.
To say Ward is well-liked in the community doesnít do him justice, according to Moore, who has worked with him for 10 years.
"Heís the nicest person youíd ever want to meet," she said. "Heís a big cutup. And if he comes into the fire department 20 times a day and youíre sitting here, you always get a hug before he leaves."
If anyone can get through this, itís Ward, his grandfather said.
"I figure heíll come out of it," he said. "He can fight the good battle."
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12-09-2002, 05:01 PM #1
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Missing for 5 days - Firefighter found alive but cold
12-10-2002, 04:00 AM #2
The AP story
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A man trapped for nearly a week in his
car after it plunged into a ravine survived in the freezing cold by
burning paper, melting snow for water and eating packets of
fast-food sauce, rescuers say.
Robert Ward, 32, suffered a broken hip in the crash and could
not get out of the car. He was found Sunday by his friend Terry
Likens, captain of the fire department where Ward is a volunteer
emergency medical technician.
"I don't think he would have made it through the night,"
Likens said. "He told us when we found him, he said he was getting
ready to go to sleep for the last time. He had just about given
Ward was in serious condition after surgery Sunday at a hospital
in Huntington. Both of his feet were frostbitten.
Ward was five miles from the coal mine where he works as a
security guard and two miles from the nearest home when his car
went off the road Dec. 2. It plunged 150 feet and hit a tree,
destroying the headlights and horn.
The area's first major snowfall hit a few days later and
temperatures remained below freezing for several days. To stay
warm, Ward ripped the lining from the car's roof and used it as a
blanket, Likens said.
He also burned paper, including pages from his EMT manual, and
melted snow to drink. His only food was what he could get out of an
old peanut butter jar and sauce packets from Taco Bell.
"It's a bachelor vehicle. It catches a little bit of
everything," Likens said.
Searchers from two volunteer fire departments, law enforcement
agencies, state natural resource and forestry workers and coal mine
employees scoured the area. A coal company donated a helicopter for
As Likens and a companion searched the ravine Sunday with
binoculars, Ward heard their car and voices and started hollering.
"He asked us to pinch him so he knew he wasn't dreaming,"
Likens said. "He said he had a lot of weird dreams while he was
down there. He dreamed two or three times when people would come by
and didn't get him out."
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12-10-2002, 04:41 AM #3He also burned paper, including pages from his EMT manualLuke
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