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Fishermen help rescue man who had been trapped in crashed truck for nearly a week

Crews retrieve a man from a crashed vehicle in Portage, Ind., on Dec. 26, 2023. (Indiana State Police)

(INDIANA) — Two Indiana fishermen happened upon a crashed motorist who survived nearly a week by drinking rainwater while trapped in his mangled truck after it overturned into a creek, police said.

“Quite frankly, it’s a miracle that he’s alive,” Indiana State Police spokesperson Sgt. Glen Fifield said during a press briefing Tuesday, after the 27-year-old driver was freed from the truck with severe, potentially life-threatening injuries.

The two fishermen were scouting Salt Creek in Portage for fishing holes Tuesday afternoon when they saw a vehicle partially in the creek underneath the I-94 overpass, Fifield said.

“I looked inside and moved the white airbag and there was a body in there,” one of the fishermen, Mario Garcia, told reporters during the briefing. “I went to touch it and he turned around. It almost killed me there because it was kind of shocking, but he was alive and he was very happy to see us. I’ve never seen a relief like that.”

The second fisherman, Nivardo Delatorre, called 911. The crash was reported around 3:45 p.m. local time Tuesday, police said.

While waiting for help, Delatorre said the motorist asked the stunned fishermen their names.

“He was grateful, he thanked us for helping him out,” Delatorre said.

The driver — identified by police as Matthew Reum, of Mishawaka, Indiana — told the fishermen he crashed on Dec. 20 and had been pinned and unable to reach his phone, Garcia said.

“He says he tried yelling and screaming but nobody would hear him,” Garcia said.

“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 added. “One more day and something could have been very different here.”

After a lengthy, challenging rescue due to the location of the crash, Reum was extricated from the truck and air-lifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend for treatment, Fifield said.

Reum is a welder who belongs to the Boilermakers Local 374. In a statement to ABC News, the union said Reum had surgery Wednesday morning to amputate his leg from the mid-shin down and he is currently in the intensive care unit.

“Matt’s strong will and toughness speak volumes through this ordeal,” Brad Sievers, the Boilermakers Local 374 business manager and secretary-treasurer, said in the statement. “Since I have known Matt, he has always been a positive, kind, and energetic person. We will continue to pray and support our brother as he begins his recovery. We thank God that Matt is still with us.”

Memorial Hospital said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that Reum remains in critical condition and shared this message on his behalf: “No matter how tough things get, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes in the least expected way.”

Reum was driving a 2016 Dodge Ram truck westbound on I-94 when, for currently unknown reasons, it left the roadway, missing a protective guardrail and overturning in the creek, police said. Fifield said he was not aware of any missing person’s report being filed for Reum.

“It really reinforces the fact of when you’re traveling that people know where you’re going,” Fifield said. “And be prepared with emergency essentials in your vehicle.”

Reum was able to drink rainwater to stay hydrated while he was trapped in the vehicle, police said. Temperatures in the region have also been mild, which likely helped him survive as well, Fifield said.

“This is a miracle that this gentleman is alive today, and that these two gentlemen just happened to be on that creek today,” Fifield said.

Delatorre said he and Garcia frequently fish together and try to find new spots. He said it was his first time going to the location where they found Reum.

“We were put there for a reason,” Delatorre said.

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