(CNN) — Something shiny near a creek and a case of curiosity led two Indiana fishermen Tuesday to a 27-year-old man who had been fighting for his life for days alone in a mangled truck – a discovery that state police are hailing as a miracle.
Mario Garcia and his son-in-law Nivardo Delatorre were scouting Salt Creek near the northwestern Indiana city of Portage for potential fishing holes and getting ready to call it a day when something shiny in the distance caught their attention, Garcia said at a news conference held by state police. Curious, they went to explore it and realized it was a vehicle wreck.
The wrecked pickup truck was under Interstate 94’s bridge over the creek. Garcia moved an airbag out of the way and saw what he thought was someone dead in the driver’s seat.
“The moment I touched the shoulder, he swung around – he woke up,” Garcia said.
Startled, but focused on helping the young man, Garcia asked Delatorre to call for help and the pair stayed with the man until rescuers came to pull him out.
“He was alive and he was very happy to see us,” Garcia said, recalling the man thanking them repeatedly. “I’ve never seen relief like that.”
The man, Matthew R. Reum of Mishawaka, might have been there for a week and suffered some “severe, potentially life-threatening injuries,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield said at the news conference.
Reum survived in part by drinking rain water, state police said in a news release. “The will to survive this crash was nothing short of extraordinary,” police said.
“It’s a miracle that he’s alive in this weather,” Fifield said. Temperatures in Porter County, where the wreck happened, had reached a low of 29 degrees in recent days.
The man told the fishermen he had been trapped there since December 20, tightly pinned in his seat in the crushed truck and unable to reach his phone, according to Garcia.
“He says he tried yelling and screaming, but nobody would hear him. It was just quiet – just the sound of the water,” Garcia recalled the man telling 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,” Garcia said.
Reum was taken to a hospital Tuesday for treatment of his injuries, police said. It’s still unclear what caused the crash, but Fifield said it appears the man’s truck ran off I-94, missed the guardrail, went airborne, rolled down into the creek and came to rest under the bridge.
Police said they received no reports of a crash and even if they did, the wreckage couldn’t be seen from the bridge.
“I looked over that bridge and you can’t see it,” Fifield said. “I walked down on the east side of the terrain and I am looking and I still couldn’t see it.”
It was difficult to get equipment to the wreckage site, and took hours to get the man out, Fifield said. I-94’s westbound lanes at mile marker 20 were closed on Tuesday afternoon as crews worked to free the man and transport him to a helicopter, which would take him to the hospital.
Had the fishermen not found him when they did, the man may not have made it, Fifield said.
“It’s cold tonight,” the sergeant said. “I don’t believe he would’ve made it through the night tonight, that’s my personal opinion.”
Garcia said he and his son-in-law they felt fortunate that their curiosity led them to the young man.
“Is it a miracle? I don’t know. But I’m just glad that that we were able to find him,” Garcia said.
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