Bowie Student Trapped 8 Days Details Pain, Survival Tactics
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
As Julian McCormick recalls it, he lay in and out of consciousness for eight days and seven nights, hot, sticky and bloody with not a clue as to what day it was or how he ended up trapped in his overturned car at the bottom of a steep embankment in Prince George's County.
To survive, he ate a fish he caught with his hands and used his high-top sneaker to drink water from the creek, the 18-year-old Bowie State University student told his parents.
When he finally was able to muster the strength, he cut his seat belt using a small knife he had in his car, forced his door open and then dragged himself by his elbows, his body racked with pain, 30 feet up to the shoulder of the road hoping that someone would see him and rescue him. Someone did.
"We've got him back, and we are so glad!" his ecstatic mother said yesterday in an interview. "He's doing great."
As their son recovered at Washington Hospital Center yesterday, Peggy and James McCormick tried to piece together the circumstances of their son's disappearance and recovery and questioned why police had not done more to search for him. They said doctors have told them that their son's injuries are consistent with someone who had been exposed to the elements for days without food or water.
But what had happened to the Laurel teenager? Why did his Honda Civic leave the roadway and land in a creek bed that runs under the road where he was found, near the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center? And why did police wait days to look for McCormick and then conduct just a 1 1/2 -hour search -- at night, when visibility was limited?
Sgt. Robert Lachance of the U.S. Park Police, which is investigating the accident because it occurred on federal land, said investigators were waiting to interview McCormick, who was sedated yesterday. He was in fair condition and being treated for malnutrition, dehydration, abrasions and an injured hip.
"We really don't want to ask him too much about what happened," James McCormick said. "The doctors predict that he will be 100 percent healed. . . . We're just trying to be there for him."
Mark Brady, a spokesman for Prince George's County fire and rescue, said McCormick's injuries were similar to those of a person who had been trapped in a car.
The McCormicks reported their son missing Sept. 1, a few hours after he left a band practice at Bowie State on his way to the University of Maryland at College Park, where he was meeting his girlfriend but never showed.
His parents and friends posted fliers and searched for him around Bowie State. His girlfriend, Flor Orellana-Diaz, called his cellphone 127 times.
Police categorized McCormick as a "non-critical missing person" because there were no signs of foul play.