SEATTLE (KIRO/CNN) - A runner in Washington is recovering in the hospital after he broke his leg while on a remote, snowy trail, crawled seven hours to get cell service and then continued crawling until rescuers finally arrived.
Joseph Oldendorf is recovering in a Seattle hospital after he broke his leg and crawled more than 10 hours before being rescued off a remote trail. (Source: KIRO/Cox/CNN)
Joseph Oldendorf had to fight to survive when he slipped on ice and broke his leg around 5:45 p.m. Friday while 12 miles into a run on the remote Duckabush Trail in the Olympic National Forest. He was stranded with no cell phone service.
"It feels like a weird dream," said Oldendorf Sunday from his hospital bed in Seattle. "I wasn't counting on my phone ever working. I just figured this is my only chance. I'm going to crawl all the way there."
Oldendorf crawled until his knees were past raw. He finally got cell phone service after nearly seven hours, calling 911 around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.
"My ankle was in such shape that… I had to be facing chest down for it not to be flopping out of alignment. So, I had to crawl on all fours, and my knees – it's a rocky, snowy, dirty, wet trail – and after a while, my knees were just raw," Oldendorf said.
But even then, Oldendorf couldn’t let himself stop, fearing he would die if he didn’t keep crawling. He says the thought of his family kept him moving through the pain for all those hours.
"I stopped to lay down and stay warm, thinking they might be there relatively soon, but I was way too cold. There was no way I could do it without moving," he said. "I don't want my family to hear I died in the wilderness. I think it'd be unbearable.”
Rescuers on the ground located Oldendorf close to 4:30 a.m. after more than 10 hours of crawling. A Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived a few hours later and airlifted him to the hospital for treatment.
"He's a lucky guy," said Brinnon firefighter Jerry Rule, who was in the rescue group that first found Oldendorf. "I wouldn't expect that he probably would've been found, to be honest with you, in my past experience.”
Despite the incident, Oldendorf plans to one day hit the trails again.
Copyright 2020 KIRO, Cox, Joseph Oldendorf, Jefferson Search and Rescue, Brinnon Fire Department via CNN. All rights reserved.