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Driver's 16 days in ice tomb.

Byline: ANDY LINES

A STRANDED driver survived for 16 days marooned in his car beneath four feet of snow in a forest wilderness.

Thomas Truett, 29, existed on a carton of orange juice, a bottle of water and a packet of almond M&M sweets.

A couple found him by chance as they rode snow- mobiles in theremote area. Last night rescuer Chuck Bloom said: "There's only one way to describe it - a miracle."

Truett - whose Mazda sports car had broken down after he went on the run from an American air force base - had severe hypothermia. He was so disoriented he had taken most of his clothes off, thinking he was too hot.

Certain he would die, he had scrawled a note to his parents 10 days before he was found.

As Truett lay in hospital in a "stable" condition, his saviours told how they stumbled across his entombed car.

Bloom and wife June were skimming across a dirt-track path in the Deschutes forest in the US state of Oregon when they noticed a black backpack in the snow.

Mr Bloom said: "I threw the backpack on to a bank of snow. Some of it fell away and I noticed something shiny."

It was Truett's 1970s Mazda.

Mr Bloom added: "It was completely covered by snow. I knocked on the window. I just felt someone was there. I saw a hand come towards the window and knock back. He managed to open the window. He was just about dead. My knocking had woken him up.

"He rolled the window down and I gave him orange juice."

June Bloom said: "All of a sudden this little claw hand comes up and taps twice. It just scared us to death."

The Blooms and rescue workers called to the scene ferried Truett, wrapped in blankets to a clearing by snowmobile. He was then airlifted to hospital in the town of Bend.

Truett, who had lost a stone and a half and exhausted his two pints of water and other supplies, could only mutter: "Thank you."

His story had begun 800 miles away on December 3 when he walked out of his fuel manager's job at Ellsworth air force base in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Truett drove first to northern California and then to Oregon on the north west tip of America.

On December 7, his 1982 Mazda RX7 came to a halt in heavy snow. For four days, he made forays into the woods - using a cigarette lighter to build small fires.

When the lighter fuel ran out, Truett tried hiking out of the forest but gave up after just 200 yards because he was too weak.

He crawled back to the car - and waited as more snow fell.

Truett is expected to leave hospital in a week when he will return to his base to face desertion charges. He had enlisted in early summer and suffered personal problems.

CAPTION(S):

HEROES: Chuck and June Bloom, who saved a man marooned in his Mazda car in a snowy forest
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 28, 2000
Words:507
Previous Article:WHITE OUT; Heavy snow fall brings chaos to Ulster's roads.
Next Article:THE M&M MIRACLE; Man lives 16 days buried in snow..on sweets.


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