Vancouver police say man's survival in Stanley Park a 'Christmas miracle'

Fri Dec 22, 6:24 PM

VANCOUVER (CP) - The discovery of a man trapped alive for days under a toppled tree in Stanley Park after a wicked windstorm is a "Christmas miracle," Vancouver police said Friday.
The 59-year-old man said he was stuck under a huge tree for six days until police were able to locate his faint 911 calls from a deactivated cell phone. "It's a Christmas miracle," said Const. Howard Chow. "It was quite an amazing feat of fortitude."
Chow said the man was likely a day or two away from death if he had not been rescued by police officers who were looking for the man on horseback and on foot.
"This person was in serious distress," he said. "One of the investigators I spoke to said that he likely only had a day or two before he would have died in there."
Police dug him out from under the tree and carried him to a waiting ambulance, Chow said. The man told his rescuers he drank rain water to survive.
He said he didn't have enough strength to free himself from under the fallen tree, Chow said.
The man, who has not been identified, is in hospital recovering from his ordeal, Chow said. He is being treated for hypothermia and damage to his feet, which were stuck in water for days.
Police started receiving 911 calls from somewhere in Stanley Park on Wednesday afternoon, Chow said.
The man said it had taken him days to realize he had an old, unused cell phone in his backpack.
Chow said police received four short phone calls from the man as he lay wedged among the damage caused by a raging windstorm that toppled thousands of trees in the park late last week.
"With the little bits of information, we were able to piece together and landmark where he might be," said Chow. "Our mounted squad, which has an intimate knowledge of the layout of the park, got themselves to an area where they believed he was, and they went back to the old-fashioned way (of searching), just hollering."
"This guy responded back," he said. "He was in such a state that they actually had to crawl in there and carry him out to a waiting ambulance."
Chow said there is confusion about how long the man was actually in the park, but medical experts have concluded by his injuries and his state of dehydration the man was trapped for days.
The man told police he went to the park to spend the night after he mistakenly thought he was being evicted from his Vancouver home.
Chow said the man has lived in the park in the past, but is currently not homeless.
After the man's rescue, police were flying over Stanley Park with infrared cameras to make sure nobody else was trapped. Police also started a detailed search of the park's trails and camps.
Chow said police know of about 15 people who make the park their home, but they were all accounted for after the storm.
Vancouver firefighters said they found a man in the park, but he told them he was safe and they left him alone.
Last week, a vicious windstorm lashed southern British Columbia with near hurricane force winds, toppling trees onto homes and knocking out power to more than 250,000 customers.