A Vancouver man is recovering from exposure and injuries suffered when he fell down the side of an embankment into a rocky creek on Thursday and crawled back up to state Highway 14, where he was found by a passerby Friday morning.
A railway employee spotted the man crawling out of bushes on the north side of the highway at a gravel road about 10 a.m. and called 911, Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn said.
“He was cold, wet and dirty,” Finn said. “His arms were bruised. It looks like he had taken a tumble.”
The man, later identified as Michael Livingston, 47, told Finn at the hospital that he packed up his motorcycle with camping gear, grabbed his Chihuahua, Marley, and headed out Thursday afternoon for the wooded area, located on Department of Natural Resources land about a mile east of the Clark-Skamania county line. He has gone camping there since he was little.
As he was dismounting his bike, however, the embankment he was standing on gave way and he fell backward about 15 feet down, onto a boulder in the water, said his mother, Eva Brown. There, he screamed for help, but no one — at least no one on two legs — came to his rescue. Marley scampered down the embankment to the river edge and laid on his owner’s chest until he had the strength to move.
“This little guy has been a miracle saver again,” Brown said of the Chihuahua. “He’s considered a service dog medically, for my son.”
Battling a storm that brought more than an inch of rain Thursday and Friday, Livingston crawled to the highway where he was found. When dispatchers took the call, it was coded as a motorcycle accident.
So when first responders arrived, the scene was a confusing one.
Paramedics found a man wearing motorcycle gear, complaining of pain, but there was no sign of a motorcycle, said Cliff Free, division chief of EMS for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.
“All we saw was a man down on the side of SR 14 being assisted by a passerby,” Free said. “It was unclear to us exactly what happened. We brought him code 3 as a precautionary measure.”
He was listed in satisfactory condition Friday at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
Brown said her son has a cracked vertebra in his spine but mostly suffered from hypothermia after hours spent in the river. He has scrapes and scratches all over the place but should be able to go home Saturday.
“I think this is one very lucky young man,” Brown said. “Every few minutes I break into tears from gratefulness and fear and all the rest.”
Brown, who has already lost four of her children, said Livingston had a heart attack just two months ago.
“This mom is pretty darn scared,” she said.
As for Livingston’s dog Marley, he was taken to the Washougal Police Department, where Brown later retrieved him. She bought him dog treats on the way home and they later visited Livington in the hospital.
“I couldn’t even get close to the bed before Marley was digging, trying to get out of my arms,” she said. “He’s been a real wonder.”