SEATTLE – After eight days, Laura Hatch's (search) family had almost given the 17-year-old up for dead, and sheriff's deputies had all but written her off as a runaway. Then she was found, badly hurt and severely dehydrated, but alive and conscious, in the back seat of a crumpled car, 200 feet down a ravine.
A volunteer searcher who said she had had several vivid dreams of a wooded area found the wrecked car in the trees Sunday.
Hatch, who remained hospitalized Monday in serious condition, was last seen at a party on Oct. 2. When she did not show up by the next day, her family filed a missing person's report.
The initial search was slowed because there had been underage drinking at the party, and the young people who attended would not say where it had been held, sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said.
On Oct. 6, detectives learned the party had been in a neighborhood east of Lake Washington (search) and searched along her likely route home, Urquhart said. But prospects dimmed as the days passed.
"We had already given her up and let her be dead in our hearts," her mother, Jean Hatch, told KOMO-TV.
Urquhart noted that in 24 years with the department, he had never known of a person to survive eight days without food or water. He said an investigation into the accident was under way.
During the search, a statewide bulletin was released and advisories were sent to local police agencies. But Urquhart said family and friends indicated "the most likely scenario was that she was a runaway."
Hatch's parents organized a volunteer search on Saturday, and that night Sha Nohr, a church member and mother of a friend of Hatch's, said she had dreams of a wooded area and heard the message, "Keep going, keep going."
On Sunday morning, Nohr and her daughter drove to the area where the crash occurred, praying along the way. "I just thought, `Let her speak out to us,"' Nohr told The Seattle Times.
Nohr said something drew her to stop and clamber over a concrete barrier and more than 100 feet down a steep, densely vegetated embankment where she barely managed to discern the wrecked Toyota Camry in some trees.
She called to her daughter, who flagged down a passing motorist. The man helped Nohr get closer to the car as aid was summoned.
"I told her that people were looking for her and they loved her," Nohr recalled, "and she said, `I think I might be late for curfew."'
Hatch was being treated at Harborview Medical Center (search) in Seattle for dehydration, a blood clot on the brain, and broken bones in her face, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said.
The teen's doctor said Hatch's dehydration contributed to her survival by keeping a blood clot caused by the crash from expanding in her brain. Dr. Richard Ellenbogen said Hatch was disoriented, thinking only a day had passed, but he said she was "in amazing shape for someone lost for eight days."
Ellenbogen said doctors were rehydrating Hatch and carefully monitoring her condition. "This is a good story. We're hoping it has a really happy ending," he said.
A call Monday to the family home in Redmond was answered by one of Hatch's sisters, who declined comment.
"We were afraid that we weren't going to find her, we weren't going to get her back," Hatch's other sister, Amy, told KING-TV in Seattle. "This is the best thing that could happen because there were a million awful scenarios."