Cliff-plunge man found by children
David Lavau's children drove slowly along the perilously curved Californian mountain road, stopping to peer over the treacherous drop-offs and call out for their father, missing for six days.
Then, finally, they heard a faint cry: "Help, help."
Close to a week after his car plunged 200 feet into a ravine, Mr Lavau, 68, was rescued on Thursday by his three adult children, who took matters into their own hands after a detective told them his last mobile phone signal came from a rugged section of the Angeles National Forest.
As he lay injured in the woods next to his wrecked car, he survived by eating insects and leaves and drinking creek water, a doctor said.
Mr Lavau is in a serious but stable condition at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital with three rib fractures, a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and fractures in his back, said emergency room physician Dr Garrett Sutter. He is expected to be released in three to four days after surgery on his shoulder.
Dr Ranbir Singh, the hospital's trauma director, said Mr Lavau told him he was driving home at about 7pm when he was temporarily blinded by the headlights of an oncoming car. He braked, but failed to gain traction. The car flipped over and plunged down the embankment.
Mr Lavau said he was unsure if he collided with the car, but a second car containing a man's body was found next to Mr Lavau's vehicle. That car, a Toyota Camry, was identified as belonging to 88-year-old Melvin Gelfand, whose family had reported him missing on September 14, said Detective Marla Ciuffetelli of Los Angeles Police's missing persons unit.
The body found in the car could not be visually identified due to decomposition, but Mr Gelfand's son-in-law Will Matlack said the family had been contacted by the coroner's office, which was trying to match fingerprints or dental records to make a positive identification. "The coroner said it's 99% a sure thing," Mr Matlack said.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the accident, trying to establish what happened.
Mr Lavau is expected to make a full recovery and was reported in good spirits. "He was very desirous of a lobster taco," Dr Sutter said.