Retired Nurse Survives 5 Snowy Days Trapped In A Car

A retired nurse called on her training and survival skills to get through being trapped for five days in a car after skidding off an icy road into a ravine. 

Lynnell McFarland, 68, was driving back from a memorial service for her aunt to her home in Spokane Valley back in November when her Mitsubishi hit some black ice and went off the road on a notorious stretch of road in Washington State known as “Deadman’s Corner.”  

According to the local press, the car plunged over an embankment and became lodged between two trees, trapping the woman after she struck the dashboard and suffered fractures to her arm and knee, among other injuries, 

She remained trapped there for five days!

“When I leaned back to cut my seat belt is when I saw my bones,” McFarland told the Spokesman-Review newspaper after being rescued from her harrowing ordeal. 

Earlier this month, she said from her bed at Providence St. Joseph Care Center in Spokane that she “could feel my parents’ arms around me.”

Elaborating on her tale of miraculous survival, McFarland told the Spokesman-Review, “My dad just passed six months ago. I could feel their arms around me and God’s arms around all of us.

“I just said, ‘Dear God, I know I’m going to die someday, but please don’t let it be in this dark, deep ravine, where I’m never found,'” she added.

McFarland and her daughter, Amanda McFarland, were actually heading home together when the car broke down near Ellensburg, where they spent the night with a family friend.

The next day, Amanda caught a bus home to care for her dogs while her mom waited for the car and left on the fateful trip in the evening alone once the car was repaired, the paper reported.

Lynnell believes she made a wrong turn while trying to find the highway in the snow at night.

“I knew I was going downhill when it happened. And I thought I went straight down, but what actually happened was my car went head over heels,” she told the paper.

A day after the accident, she said, a police officer got tantalizingly close to her after her daughter reported her missing — but didn’t see her trapped car in the ravine below.

“He stopped, with his lights going, but he didn’t get out of the car and look,” McFarland said, adding that she also saw some hunters, who also couldn’t see the car or hear her cries for help.

With her survival instincts kicking into high gear, the former registered nurse cut herself free from her seat belt and devised a shelter with some clothes and plastic bags.

“I had winter boots on the front floorboard. My phone was on the front floorboard,” she told the Spokesman-Review. “I had water bottles on the front floorboard. I couldn’t reach any of them.”

But she did manage to lick rainwater that had accumulated on the plastic bags.

Meanwhile, Amanda kept calling her out-of-reach phone after filing a missing person’s report and making a plea on Facebook.

“I had to keep myself in this mode where like, the mission is we will find her; she’s going to be alive. We don’t have much time,” Amanda told local TV station KHQ.

“We just need to get missing flyers; we need to get everybody in this state to be on the lookout because I think she’s still alive,” she said, according to the station.

“I also called every hospital or medical center, from Blewett Pass down to Spokane looking for missing women or women that had come in maybe confused and didn’t know their name,” she added.

Eventual Rescue

Eventually, the FBI tracked her mother to a remote spot that some call “Dead Man’s Corner,” KHQ reported.

“She had gone off of Dead Man’s Corner that had no side rail, and there weren’t tracks, unfortunately, because from what I can gather is the snowplows kind of covered up the snow tracks,” Amanda said.

“She immediately realized, like, ‘Wow, it’s freezing outside, and it’s raining and snowing on me,'” she said.

“Her wrist was broken, and her bones were sticking out of her body. And she knew she had fractures, maybe her pelvis and all these other places,” the daughter told KHQ.

“She had been screaming for days,” she added. “So that was hard for her. Because how gut-wrenching to be like, so close to so many people. And then so helpless.”

After being desperately trapped for five days, some Department of Transportation workers found the hidden car and rappelled down to rescue the badly injured woman.

“It took three attempts in the ambulance to get an IV in because my veins were so flat,” she told the Spokesman-Review.

Amanda told KHQ that despite her injuries, her mom was “making jokes” with her rescuers.

“I just hugged her, and she said, ‘Amanda, I was praying so much, but I knew I didn’t have two days left,'” she said.

McFarland said she gulped down three pitchers of ice water when she arrived at a hospital in Wenatchee, where she underwent three surgeries.

“Finding me was a miracle,” she said. “I wouldn’t call it stubbornness. Determination.”

McFarland’s experience is reminiscent of Tilly Tooter, the famed then 83-year old Florida woman who made headlines when she was trapped in her car after it flew off interstate I-95. Tooter survived for three days on rainwater and Altoids mints until she too was finally discovered and rescued. Tilly died many years later at the ripe old age of 95.

Written by CFP Staff Writer

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