(NEW YORK) — With his broken left arm in a sling and his right eye nearly swollen shut, 34-year-old Ian Snyder said he can’t believe he survived a 1,000-foot tumble from a hiking trail in Hawaii and being stranded for three days next to a stream making “my peace with God.”
The California father of three spoke of his harrowing ordeal on Tuesday and was able to meet and thank in person the rescuers and members of the local hiking community who banded together to find him on Thursday near a waterfall in the Koʻolau mountain range on the island of Oahu.
“It’s a miracle first and foremost. I’m glad to be here, incredibly glad to be here and glad to be in mostly one piece,” Snyder said at a news conference in Hawaii on Tuesday.
Snyder said he was hiking alone early last week on what he described as a “treacherous” stretch of the Ko’olau Summit Trail when his outing took an unexpected twist.
“I couldn’t believe when people were telling me, ‘You fell a thousand feet down that cliff.’ And I’m like, ‘How did I even survive,” Snyder said after spending three days in a hospital.
He said his hike was “pretty routine” when he started on his adventure last week.
“Then I got to the peak and it was steep. From there I continued along the peaks of the trail and it got more and more treacherous,” Snyder said.
At one point, he said he looked down from the trail and saw the Pali Highway in the distance and thought, “Man, that’s a long way below me and I need to get down there.”
Snyder of the Northern California town of Ferndale said he doesn’t remember exactly when he “toppled and fell.”
“Once I came to, I had no idea what had happened. I’d been out clearly. I can’t even remember if it was daytime, nighttime the first time I came to,” Snyder said.
When Snyder failed to return from his hike, his family reported him missing to the Honolulu Police Department. Members of the Oahu Hiking Community also rallied a search team, spreading the word of Snyder’s disappearance on its Facebook page.
Luckily for Snyder, he had posted a selfie and videos on social media during his hike before he fell, helping rescuers pinpoint the location to search for him. In one of the posted videos, Snyder wrote, “Seriously one of the best hikes I’ve ever done.”
Meanwhile, Snyder said he was left wondering if he would live or die.
“I remember being close to the stream and at some point in the few days, I know I must have shifted locations, dragged myself along and got myself closer to the stream. I got between two rocks, where I knew I’d be more sheltered, out of the wind,” Snyder said.
Because his left arm was broken, he said he had to reach across his body with his right hand to scoop up water to drink. As he lay there immobilized, he said, “I had a deep sense of calm.”
“I had made my peace with God. I said, I know you. I know that Christ is Lord and he’s my savior and I will be OK whether I live or whether I die,” Snyder said. “At the same time, I wanted to live. I wasn’t giving up the will to live.”
On Thursday, he said he heard what sounded like a helicopter nearby.
“It had been twilight or dark and I had gotten some more water and then remember waking up and thinking, ‘I hear aircraft. It’s going very slow and very close. They must be looking for me.’ There was no other explanation,” Snyder said.
He said he began waving his right arm and eventually caught the rescue crew’s attention.
Allen Zhang, a paramedic with Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, said that when he spotted Snyder from the air, he couldn’t believe the hiker had survived such a fall.
“As you can imagine Mr. Snyder, your call was the most memorable that day,” Zhang said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Not every day our department sees a situation like this. Falling a thousand feet from a trail is no joke.”
Amber Fonte, a member of the Oahu Hiking Community, also said at the news conference that she was resigned to just returning Snyder’s body to his family.
“And when we found a whole human living and breathing and waving at the sky. I was like, ‘Merry Christmas,'” Fonte said.
Snyder said he learned a valuable lesson from his misadventure: Never go hiking alone.
“I don’t know how this will be used instrumentally by God through my life,” Snyder said. “But I hope it will be useful in the long run.”
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