Car crash victim improving after week in wilderness

May 17, 2012 7:05:34 PM PDT
Doctors explain just how lucky a South Bay crash victim is to have survived more than a week without food or drink. A Bay Area man is truly lucky to be alive.

His doctors are astounded, while his family is frustrated. Michael Sanchez Jr. veered off Hellyer Avenue in San Jose, but wasn't found until a week later and his loved ones want to know why it took so long.

Sanchez was taken to San Jose Regional Medical Center, his kidneys were failing and doctors put him on life support, hoping for the best. Sanchez is not only lucky to be alive, but his doctor says it's a rarity he's still alive after eight days without water.

Meantime, the CHP is investigating why they failed to find him when they found his truck.

"In hindsight, no, it didn't work out the way it was supposed to work out and nobody's happy about that," said CHP Lt. Les Bishop.

But considering all they had to go on, Bishop told us the officers made the right decisions May 8th. That's when they found Michael Sanchez's wrecked pickup truck rolled over off Highway 101 next to Hellyer exit.

"We conducted about a 45 minute search, which included fire department and them using their nighttime lighting, their high powered lighting system," said Bishop.

They never found Sanchez, but one week later, the 25-year-old was located unconscious, but alive in the thick underbrush some 50 feet from his wrecked truck. Trauma surgeon Bruce Wilbur, M.D., says it's amazing he survived because he was near death.

"He's 25, he's young, he's strong and that's why he was able to survive," said Wilbur.

Here's the timeline:

    May 8th -- the CHP found his vehicle, but not Sanchez.
    May 10th -- Sanchez's family, not knowing he was in a crash, filed a missing person's report with San Jose police.
    May 11th -- the case was assigned to detectives.
    May 14th -- they learned from the CHP that his truck was involved in an accident.
    May 15th -- detectives searched the crash site and found Sanchez.

His sister Priscilla just can't understand why her brother wasn't found for eight days.

"If I report it, my brother missing on that Thursday, they should have traced that first truck. If CHP picked up his truck on the 8th, why didn't they report 'I found a truck. There's a person missing.' Why wasn't I informed?" said Priscilla.

The CHP says they did a thorough search even though a witness told them, they saw the driver walking away from the truck. They also could find no blood at the scene.

"You know, there's probably an assumption this person didn't want to make contact with us which what happens a lot in the middle of the night," said Bishop.

Wilbur says Sanchez probably suffered a blow to the head when his truck rolled over. He says Sanchez is now rolling his eyes, he has some motor functions, and that he is in the doctor's words, making tremendous progress.

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