For two days, Kevin Bell was trapped in the car with his dead girlfriend.
The front of the 1999 Ford Explorer had shattered into a tree. The car itself was lodged somewhere down a rugged, steep embankment in rural Indiana, where it had plummeted off U.S. Route 50 some 100 feet above.
Bell’s left leg was badly injured — so much so that, for two days, he remained unable to get out of the driver’s side of the vehicle. Then, on Tuesday, Bell managed to pry himself from the Explorer and crawl his way back to the road.
By the time he reached the guardrail, it was late in the afternoon Tuesday. A passerby spotted him and called for help at 5 p.m., signaling the end of what police said was an extremely unusual and tragic case.
“Nothing I’ve dealt with like this,” Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, a spokesman for the Indiana State Police, told The Washington Post. “Stories pop up occasionally where someone crashes and aren’t found for a while. It’s very rare, obviously.”
Two days before, Bell, 39, and his girlfriend, Nikki Reed, 37, had been reported missing after family members grew concerned that they had not been able to contact either of them since Saturday. They told police that Reed, a resident of Seymour, Ind., had traveled to Pennsylvania on Sept. 17 to pick up her boyfriend.
She had promised to return the next day in time for her son’s birthday party, family members said in a Facebook page dedicated to finding them.
Relatives said they last heard from the two around 12:30 p.m. Saturday as they made their way back to Indiana, police said. After that, calls and texts to her cellphone apparently went unreturned.
On Sept. 18, state troopers opened a missing persons investigation and began searching for Bell and Reed. Friends and relatives spread fliers online urging others to keep an eye out for the two.
Police are still investigating the crash but believe that, at some point Saturday afternoon, Bell lost control of the Explorer and ran off the road in an unincorporated part of Jennings County, Ind.
“It then cut straight down toward this pond,” Wheeles said, and hit a tree “head on.”
Because of the location of the crash — and how far down the road their car had plunged — the Explorer was not visible from the highway, he said.
“It’s a rural part of the road,” Wheeles said. “That’s a pretty rugged, steep embankment. I don’t know how the vehicle didn’t overturn.”
When state troopers were called to the scene Tuesday, they found Bell, exhausted and dehydrated, with severe injuries. He was taken to a hospital and is expected to recover, police said.
Troopers also found the Explorer down the embankment, with Reed still inside it. It is believed she died instantly in the crash, police said.
On Wednesday, Reed’s grieving family set up a YouCaring page to raise money for her funeral expenses.
Detailing what had happened, Reed’s daughter, Brooklyn Reed, told WHAS-11 News that her mother would not have left the family without telling them.
“She had me go to Walmart to get a cake for my little brother, and she told me to call her before I went, so I called her and she said everything was fine,” Brooklyn Reed told the news station. “She said she was in Kentucky, so I didn’t think anything of it. So I went in and she said to call her when I came back out, so I went to call her and she didn’t answer her phone.”
On the YouCaring page, Brooklyn Reed described a heart-rending three-day ordeal in which friends and family canvassed police stations and hospitals to try to find her mother.
All of that ended when a state trooper visited their home to break the tragic news, she wrote.
“I don’t know what happened or how it [happened],” she wrote. “All I know is that I want this to not be true, I just wish it was a dream! I love my mom so much! I wish she was still here so I can hug her and tell her I love her one more time!”