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Man who drove off cliff ate bugs, leaves for 6 days, doctor says

September 30, 2011 | 11:56 am

A doctor who treated a 67-year-old Lake Hughes man who survived for six days on bugs and leaves after his car plunged off a cliff said the man was "quite scared but also quite hopeful" during the ordeal.

David LaVau could hear cars passing on the road above the deep ravine where he was stuck with a dislocated shoulder and a fractured back, he told the nurses at the hospital after he was rescued Thursday night.

“As he was down there eating bumblebees and ants and leaves, he could visualize the cars passing by above and hear them,” said Dr. Garrett Sutter, who was working in the emergency room at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia when LaVau was airlifted in.

LaVau remained in his car overnight after the Sept. 23 crash and the next day crawled out, only to see a dead man in another car that had apparently plunged over the cliff before him, said CHP officials, who had no additional information on that crash.

"It's astonishing he did as well as he did," Sutter said Friday in a news conference at the hospital. "When I heard the details of his story, I was shocked to see how well he was doing. He took quite a plunge off that cliff."

Relatives formed a search-and-rescue effort and found his car car Thursday evening off Lake Hughes Road north of Castaic.

The family was able to access LaVau's cellphone and credit card records, which showed no activity since last Friday.

Based on that, family members said, they narrowed their search to Lake Hughes Road. They spotted the car and Sean LaVau said he slid down the mountain in a frantic effort to reach his father.

"We got credit cards, we got cellphone [records], we broke into his Facebook," Sean LaVau told KTLA-TV.

He said his 12-year-old daughter was able to break into her grandfather's cellphone and listen to voicemail messages.

Sutter said he expects LaVau to be released in about three to four days after he undergoes shoulder surgery. He also suffered a broken forearm, but Sutter said he was surprised LaVau wasn't dehydrated, considering his only liquid consumption was creek water.

LaVau told nurses that when he was taken into the emergency room, he had "an overwhelming sense of relief” and he was alert, awake and "even jovial."

He told the nurses he was hungry and had been craving lobster tacos and In-N-Out hamburgers.

His family stayed with him at the hospital through the night, Sutter said.

The doctor said LaVau does not remember the actual plunge but did remember being in the ravine.

Sutter said he had "never seen anyone go through this kind of a plunge do so remarkably."

He told the nurses that headlights momentarily blinded him and caused him to drive off the cliff.

Sutter predicted LaVau should be fully recovered in four to five months.


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-- Esmeralda Bermudez in Valencia

Photo: Family and friends celebrate with David LaVau at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia.