SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A young couple who stopped to take pictures at a scenic overlook in the Utah mountains at first thought the screams sounded like children playing in the distance.
But as the cries persisted, Spencer Dryden and Cleo Jackson realized it wasn’t kids.
“Do you really need help?” Dryden yelled into the woods below.
“Yes, I need emergency help,” a woman said. “Call 911 right now.”
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Dryden, 20, told The Associated Press on Friday that he traversed down a steep mountainside until he found the injured woman who had been trapped in her crushed car for two days. His girlfriend drove down the mountain to get cellphone reception and call for help.
Their actions Thursday saved the life of Heather Blackwelder, 29, who plunged several hundred feet off a steep and winding mountain road, authorities said. Blackwelder suffered compound fractures to her legs but is expected to survive.
Though the road is well-traveled, her car landed in a spot covered by trees that made it difficult to see. It could have been days, or weeks, before she was found, Utah County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.
“She’s very, very lucky to be alive,” he said.
Dryden found Blackwelder dirty, covered in dried blood and unable to move her arm or legs. She complained of back pain. The entire car was smashed — except the driver’s seat where Blackwelder was trapped, Dryden said. He figured she had been there a couple of hours, until she told him it had been two days.
“It was really shocking,” Dryden said.
He promised her that he would get help and ran back to the switchback road in search of water.
The first driver he stopped was skeptical of the story but eventually gave him water. Dryden rushed it to Blackwelder, then went back to the road.
He ran into Mormon missionaries with walkie-talkies who called for help. A few hours later, Blackwelder was pulled from the wreckage and flown to a hospital.
Investigators know her car barreled through an old guardrail on State Route 92 but don’t know yet what caused the accident, Cannon said.
She told Dryden and police that she went for a drive after a fight with her husband. All her belongings were in the car, including clothes and other items, Dryden said.
“She was super thankful to see me,” said Dryden, who works as a dorm parent in a boarding school in Mount Pleasant, Utah. “She was thanking me, apologizing.”
Blackwelder was in serious condition Friday at the Utah Valley Medical Center in Provo, hospital spokeswoman Janet Frank said.
Dryden and Jackson were in the area after visiting the Timpanogos Cave and stopped at several scenic pullouts to snap photos. They’re not sure how others doing the same thing didn’t hear the screams but said they never hesitated once they realized the situation.
“People call me a hero, but if you heard ‘Help, help’ in the woods, you wouldn’t have driven away either,” Dryden said.