A man trapped in a crashed vehicle on an Arizona mountain for three days was found by a couple taking sightseeing photos and ultimately saved the man’s life, authorities said Saturday.
Jerome Police Chief Allen Muma said the 50-year-old man’s purple SUV was spotted Friday afternoon by a couple who had pulled over on a road on Mingus Mountain, about 10 miles south of Jerome.
"The big thing I want to get across is how lucky this gentleman was," Muma said. "These people happened to stop and take a picture. Had they not, he'd be dead. There's no doubt in my mind."
The couple was driving on Allen Springs Road. Muma described the terrain as an unimproved, dirt Forest Service road and the surrounding area has brush between 6 and 10 feet tall. As they started to take photos, the woman noticed pieces of the vehicle through the mesquite trees and bushes. As the couple inched closer, the saw a man inside and immediately called 911.
"It was in an area not frequently traveled," Muma said. "Think about it. This man would not be alive if not for these people who stopped to take some photos, and they could have stopped anywhere along the road to take photos. She had walked to the edge of the road to take some photos and saw some debris and eventually they saw the vehicle and called 911. Three days had already gone by."
It took several fire and police agencies more than an hour to reach the man and extricate him using the Jaws of Life, according to Muma. The roof of the Toyota FJ Cruiser had caved in.
The unidentified Cornville man was conscious enough to give paramedics information. That is when emergency personnel deduced his car had tolled down the mountain three days earlier.
The couple who found the man happened to have a chainsaw, which rescuers used to help clear the terrain from the car for a waiting helicopter.
He was airlifted in critical condition to Verde Valley Medical Center and then later transported to a hospital in Flagstaff.
The man was listed in stable condition Saturday, according to Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn. The sheriff's office is investigating how the vehicle ended up crashing.
Muma did not know if the man had any water or food nearby. A deputy found his cellphone outside of the car.
The man, whose identity has not been released, has no family so nobody reported him missing.
"If you're going to travel off-road somewhere or even a well-traveled road ... let somebody know," Muma said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.