Trapped trucker survives hours in subzero temps - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Trapped trucker survives hours in subzero temps

Posted: Updated:
INDIANAPOLIS -

Tim Rutledge's eyelid had frozen shut. His voice was hoarse after competing for hours with bitter-cold wind and humming truck engines while screaming for help. He was losing consciousness, pinned under his rig in sub-zero temperatures at an Indiana truck stop.

The longtime Florida truck driver had crawled under his truck with a hammer to loosen ice from his brakes around 4 a.m. Monday, as record-breaking temperatures swept into the state. But the truck suddenly settled deeper into the snow, pinning him beneath an axle.

The 53-year-old was trapped, helpless as his cellphone rang dozens of times in a coat pocket he couldn't reach. It had been about eight hours. He feared he was near death.

Then his phone suddenly toppled from his pocket, its vibrating ring enough to finally wiggle it free. He was able to scoop it up with his right hand inside a frozen glove, use its voice dial to call a company dispatcher and muster a quiet plea for help.

"I said `Whoever this is, don't hang up on me because it's going to be the last time that I'll be able to call. I can't call out and I can't answer the phone,'" Rutledge said Thursday, recalling his experience as he sat in a leather armchair at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Doctors said his body temperature was so low when he arrived at the hospital that just one more hour likely would have been fatal. Yet he was released from the hospital on Thursday and planned to fly back home to Orlando, Fla., with little more than numbness in his left hand and side where the axle had pinned him.

Rutledge noted that the phone calls from his wife, Lisa, began soon after he missed making his typical early morning check-in with her.

"I used to think it was kind of a hassle, but I always called her just so she knew where I was at," he said. "I won't take her for granted now. She saved me."

Rutledge had been driving a load from Florida when he stopped Sunday evening at the truck stop, less than an hour away from his destination. As he slept in his cab, several inches of snow fell and temperatures plunged. He woke up to frozen brakes.

Steve Moseley, a dispatcher with First Coast Express of Jacksonville, Fla., said he feared the worst after numerous calls to Rutledge went unanswered. Moseley answered Rutledge's call for help Monday afternoon, and said his voice grew quieter during their conversation until it dimmed to a whisper.

"At one time I called out to him and he didn't say anything," Moseley said. "That scared me a bit."

His trucking company called the truck stop and emergency workers were summoned to search for him as temperatures dropped to more than 10 below zero in the area, with wind gusts of 30 mph leading to wind chills of negative 35 or colder.

It took time for workers to find his semi amid the sea of parked trucks at the Pilot Travel Center in Whiteland, just south of Indianapolis.

By the time he reached the hospital, Rutledge's body temperature had fallen to about 86 degrees.

Dr. Timothy Pohlman, a trauma surgeon who treated him, said another hour outside likely would have been fatal for Rutledge. But he said being under the truck likely shielded him somewhat from the dangerous wind gusts.

"I think just the fact that he had to crawl under a semi to figure out why he broke down in a way forced him to do what is taught in a lot of survival courses for people who have to work in extreme environments," Pohlman said.

Pohlman said Rutledge, who somehow emerged without any frostbite injuries, should fully recover.

Rutledge said he was lucky to be alive.

"There was another hand in this," he said. "If my phone would've dropped the other way, I could never have called anyone. If it (the truck) would've sunk any farther, I wouldn't have had a need to call anyone."

--

Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine in Indianapolis contributed to this story.

  • Viral StoriesMore>>

  • New app helps teens calm anxiety

    New app helps teens calm anxiety

    Monday, July 28 2014 11:46 AM EDT2014-07-28 15:46:49 GMT
    Anxiety disorders affect one in eight teens. There are medications and therapies that can help alleviate symptoms, and now there’s even an app that can help. The MindShift app aims to teach young adults how to combat everyday anxiety, panic, conflict and worry. Teens can input their symptoms and the app will create a plan to help reduce stress. Created by two non-profit organizations, Anxiety BC and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Mindshift app gives users the ability to ...
    Anxiety disorders affect one in eight teens. There are medications and therapies that can help alleviate symptoms, and now there’s even an app that can help. The MindShift app aims to teach young adults how to combat everyday anxiety, panic, conflict and worry. Teens can input their symptoms and the app will create a plan to help reduce stress. Created by two non-profit organizations, Anxiety BC and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Mindshift app gives users the ability to ...
  • Toddler crashes Jeep, runs home to watch cartoons

    Toddler crashes Jeep, runs home to watch cartoons

    Monday, July 28 2014 9:07 AM EDT2014-07-28 13:07:54 GMT
    MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. (AP) -- Police say a toddler crashed a Jeep into an Oregon home, then ran back to his home to watch cartoons. Authorities say the 3-year-old boy who was wearing only a diaper climbed into the Jeep Tuesday evening and knocked it out of gear. Witnesses say it rolled down the street, through an intersection and into the house, causing minor damage. KPTV reports (http://bit.ly/1rhWlK6 ) an officer found the boy on a couch watching TV as if nothing had happened. He said his par...
    MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. (AP) -- Police say a toddler crashed a Jeep into an Oregon home, then ran back to his home to watch cartoons. Authorities say the 3-year-old boy who was wearing only a diaper climbed into the Jeep Tuesday evening and knocked it out of gear. Witnesses say it rolled down the street, through an intersection and into the house, causing minor damage. KPTV reports (http://bit.ly/1rhWlK6 ) an officer found the boy on a couch watching TV as if nothing had happened. He said his par...
  • Former contractor says she was attacked by rats at DC's Providence Hospital

    Former contractor says she was attacked by rats at DC's Providence Hospital

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:03 AM EDT2014-07-25 15:03:00 GMT
    It is an odd and very disturbing story. A hospital contractor in Northeast D.C. was attacked by rats on the job and they are the same rats she says are eating bodies in the morgue.
    It is an odd and very disturbing story. A hospital contractor in Northeast D.C. was attacked by rats on the job and they are the same rats she says are eating bodies in the morgue.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices