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Miracle Rescue: Fishermen Save Trapped Truck Driver After Week-Long I-94 Ordeal

Fishermen Rescue Driver Trapped in Wrecked Truck for 6 Days
Photo Source: Indiana State Police/WWJ

In a remarkable turn of events, two men searching for fishing spots in Northwest Indiana uncovered a stranded truck driver claiming to be trapped for nearly a week after a crash off Interstate 94. 

The quick-thinking unexpected Good Samaritans, a man, and his son-in-law, were credited with the rescue that unfolded on Tuesday afternoon. 

Authorities became aware of the incident when the Porter County Dispatch Center received a crash report around 3:45 p.m., indicating a collision on I-94 at mile marker 19, a mile east of the Portage exit. 

While scouting potential fishing holes along Salt Creek, the fishermen discovered a severely damaged truck under the I-94 bridge, partially submerged in the creek. 

Despite initial skepticism, one of the fishermen touched the man inside the truck, assuming him to be deceased. 

To their astonishment, the driver was alive and communicated that he had crashed several days earlier, unable to reach his cellphone for assistance.

The subsequent rescue operation, led by medics from the Portage and Burns Harbor fire departments, closed the westbound lanes of I-94. 

The driver, later identified as Matthew Reum, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana, suffered severe injuries and was transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

According to Indiana State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield, the crash likely occurred around December 20th when Reum's 2016 Dodge Ram left the roadway, went airborne, rolled multiple times, and ended up in the creek under the I-94 bridge.

Remarkably, Reum survived in adverse weather conditions, managing to drink rainwater for hydration during the extended ordeal. 

The will to survive was described as extraordinary by state police, who also noted Reum's ability to endure without food for six days.

"Quite frankly, it's a miracle that he's alive in this weather. We've been lucky enough during this Christmas season – our temperatures, as you know, are above normal," said Fifield. "So that was working in this individual's favor."

State police said, "The will to survive this crash was nothing short of extraordinary as it was also determined that Mr. Reum was able to drink rainwater for hydration in order to survive for such a long period of time while being exposed to the elements."

The two fishermen, identified as Mario Garcia and Nivardo Delatorre, recounted their discovery at a news conference. Garcia described moving an airbag to find the driver alive and happy to be rescued. 

"It almost killed me there, because it was kind of shocking," said Garcia, "but he was alive, and he was very happy to see us. Like he was really like, I've never seen a relief like that."

The rescue proved challenging due to the difficult terrain along the creek, with responders facing riprap and boulders.

"He said he tried yelling and screaming, but nobody would hear him," Garcia said. "It was just the quiet sound of the water."

Fifield emphasized the fortuitous timing of the discovery, highlighting that arriving just half an hour later would have meant darkness, hindering their ability to locate the wrecked truck. 

"They had a very difficult time getting down into the creek area with their equipment to basically cut him out and remove him from the vehicle," said Fifield.

The fishermen expressed relief at having found the man when they did, believing he might not have survived the night.

"It's cold tonight and I don't believe he would've made it through the night tonight," said Fifield. "That's my personal opinion."

"He said to me that he's been there for a long time; that he had almost lost all hope - because nobody was there," said Garcia, "and one more day, and something would have been different here.

Meteorological conditions played a crucial role, as consistently above-freezing temperatures in Portage, Indiana, contributed to the driver's survival. Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the crash, withholding the driver's identity. 

The two Good Samaritans, hesitant to accept hero status, insist they were merely in the right place at the right time.

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