LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A medic who rescued a man who got trapped in a ravine in Bel Air for over a week without food or water described the harrowing ordeal to CBSLA Friday.
On the afternoon of Aug. 25, Michael Chaikin and Robin Spencer heard screams for help coming from the brush of a canyon about 500 feet from their home in the 2400 block of Nalin Drive.
“We heard him well enough to determine he was in need of help, so I called 911,” Chaikin said.
Los Angeles police were dispatched but were unable to locate the source of the cries. A L.A. Fire Department helicopter was brought in and circled the canyon for about 40 minutes without any luck.
“Often times, we can fly over and see through that canopy,” LAFD aeromedic John Terrusa said. “In this particular case we couldn’t see through it.”
Eventually, Terrusa was hoisted down onto the hillside. The chopper flew away and Terrusa was left to search for the man on foot. He yelled out and the man responded.
“He said, ‘I’m here, please help me,’” Terrusa said.
Even as a seasoned first responder, what Terrusa found surprised him.
“He had no encampment, no water, no food,” Terrusa said.
The man had been trapped in the ravine for more than a week and was in grave condition. He had multiple scraped and abrasions all over his body. He was dehydrated and could not move.
“I think if he had stayed there a day, maybe two, he wouldn’t have lasted much longer, he would have died where he was,” Terrusa said.
“He had the will to live, he knew he was in dire straights, and called for help, and that was great,” Terrusa said.
It’s unclear what brought the man to the canyon, whether he was hiking or homeless. He was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and has since survived.
LAFD aeromedics like Terrusa make hundreds of wilderness, water and fire rescues every year.
“People love to go out there and explore the wilderness, and sometimes they’re aren’t quite prepared for what Mother Nature brings them,” Terrusa said.