Man survives in trunk after car plunges into river

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 18, 2011 7:48 PM
Man survives in trunk after car plunges into river

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A Washington state man was listed in satisfactory condition on Monday and was "incredibly lucky to be alive" after his car flipped into a river near the Idaho-Washington border, authorities said.

Ned Florea, 20, squeezed through the rear seats and into the trunk of his two-door Hyundai Tiburon as chill, fast-flowing waters engulfed all but 6 inches of head room, creating a life-saving air pocket, Idaho State Trooper Leslie Lehman said.

Rescuers estimated that Florea was in the Pend Oreille River for nearly an hour after the accident, which happened about 11 p.m. on Saturday after his car veered off a northern Idaho roadway and plunged into the water.

A passenger, Keefer Peterson, 18, of Oldtown, Idaho, managed to swim free of the submerged car but later could not recollect how he escaped, Lehman said.

"He was able to get his hand into an opening to the trunk area where Ned was and he stood in the water and held Ned's hand and kept him talking until we got to him," she said.

Questin Youk, sergeant with the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office in Washington, said rescue crews were unable to pry open the trunk, requiring it to be cut open with a hydraulic tool called the "jaws of life."

"That young man is incredibly lucky to be alive," Youk said.

The doctor who first treated Florea reported that his lungs were so full of water that he was still drowning an hour after being hospitalized, said Lehman.

Florea was in satisfactory condition on Monday at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington, officials said.

Peterson was treated for hypothermia and head injuries he may have suffered from the rollover, said Lehman.

Alcohol may have played a part in the accident, according to police reports.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan)