California man survives eating leaves after crash

September 30, 2011 - 3:55 AM
Cars Off Cliff Rescue

Los Angeles County firefighters are stationed on Lake Hughes Road, where two vehicles were found off the side and approximately 200 feet in the canyon below in the Angeles National Forest, north of Castaic, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/The Newhall Signal, Jonathan Pobre) MANDATORY CREDIT

CASTAIC, Calif. (AP) — A 67-year-old man found alive days after his car plunged 200 feet off a mountain road built a makeshift camp, ate leaves and drank water from a nearby creek to survive, his daughter said.

Family members found David Lavau at the bottom of a ravine off Lake Hughes Road in the Angeles National Forest Thursday after conducting their own search, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Mark Savage.

Another vehicle was found nearby, but its driver did not survive the crash and there were no details on how the cars ended up off the road, said Savage.

David Lavau's daughter, Lisa Lavau, told KCAL-TV her family had not heard from her father for several days and reported him missing to police.

Authorities told Lisa Lavau that her father had used his debit card at a nearby grocery store, so she decided to conduct a search of the area along with her daughter and brother.

"We stopped at every ravine, and looked over every hill and then my brother got out of the car and we kept screaming and the next thing we heard Dad saying 'help, help,' and there he was," Lisa Lavau said.

When they were able to get down into the area where he'd been stranded, his first words to his family were a request: "Can I have some chocolate milk?" KCAL reported.

Officials at the scene were told he may have been stranded for up to six days, Savage said.

"It's unconfirmed, the duration, but it's possibly a significant amount of time," Savage said.

Fire officials responded at around 6:10 p.m. and a paramedic was lowered to David Lavau from a helicopter. He was evaluated and taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital for treatment.

David Lavau suffered multiple rib fractures, a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and multiple fractures in his back, but none of the injuries was life-threatening, said hospital spokeswoman Bhavna Mistery. He was expected to undergo surgery and it was not clear how long he would be hospitalized, she said. He was doing well and in good spirits surrounded by his family, she added.

The three family members who found him had to be assisted out of area on foot by firefighters.

The crash occurred in a sparsely populated area about 50 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

Savage said roads in the area have sharp curves and in many areas go down to two lanes, with some steep cliffs and drops over the side.

Savage said firefighters remained on the scene late Thursday to do a thorough search of the area to make sure there were no other victims in the accident.

The California Highway Patrol is taking over the investigation, said Savage.

The identity of the deceased driver has not been released. His body has been turned over to the coroner's office.