Duncan Moffat doesn’t remember the moment he lost control of his gold Dodge Ram on Highway 19 south of Sayward and plunged 40 feet down an embankment.
All he remembers is slipping in and out of consciousness as he was pinned in the smashed-up pickup truck, too deep in the forest to be seen from the road. As the hours turned into days, the 23-year-old Campbell River man worried that no one would ever find him.
The truck’s horn wasn’t working and there was no cellphone coverage to call for help.
“I remember I smashed a window to try and make a bit of noise,” Moffat said, dressed in a hospital gown and speaking from his hospital bed at Victoria General Hospital, where he’s recovering from a broken femur, a broken shoulder blade and broken ribs. A red gash cuts into the stubble on Moffat’s left cheek and his right tooth is chipped in half.
Moffat believes it was 5 or 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 when his truck went out of control as he was driving back to his father’s home in Campbell River.
The truck clipped a tree on the way down, pushing the driver’s- side door into Moffat’s shoulder.
Moffat was trapped for an agonizing five days, until Nov. 13 when a hunter walking through the area spotted the truck.
Moffat survived on three crates of apples that happened to be in the back of the truck.
He used cardboard from the apple boxes to create a cushion between the left side of his body and the smashed door. He also used the cardboard to keep warm, as temperatures were in the single digits at night.
On the day before he was rescued, he found a half-full bottle of Gatorade that quenched his thirst.
“The last day and a half is when I realized where I was,” he said.
Moffat said he passed the time in a dreamlike state, imagining fantastical scenarios that took him away from the reality of being trapped. “I was pretty much escaping the reality of what was happening.”
He remembers speaking from the wreckage and startling the hunter, who responded by asking if Moffat needed help.
Moffat said yes. “I was coherent but confused.”
The hunter, who does not want any media attention, flagged down a passing car in order to get someone to call 911.
As an ambulance rushed to the scene, Moffat’s father, Glenn Moffat, saw it race down the highway and something in his gut told him to follow it. Moffat had been reported missing on Nov. 7, three days after he left his father’s home with the truck.
When Glenn Moffat saw the mangled truck, he feared the worst. He remembers asking a Sayward RCMP officer whether his son was OK.
With tears in his eyes while standing next to his son’s hospital bed, Glenn Moffat said waiting to find out the answer “was the hardest 15 seconds of my life.” When Glenn Moffat found out his son was awake and talking, he drove to an area with cell reception to tell family members that Duncan had been found.
Duncan Moffat remembers that the firefighters used hydraulic cutters to tear away the driver’s side door.
He remembers feeling some pain when being lifted onto a stretcher, but mostly was overcome with relief that someone had come to his rescue.
When he is discharged from hospital, he wants to meet the hunter, Moffat said.
He’ll tell him: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Otherwise, I would have been [trapped] a lot longer or I wouldn’t have gotten out of there.”
Glenn Moffat said his son is “one tough Scotsman to survive that long.”
Moffat underwent surgery to repair his broken femur, which was made more complicated because his muscle had retracted due to the long time spent in the truck after the initial break.
Moffat turns 24 on Dec. 30, and he said it’s unclear if he’ll be celebrating at home or in his hospital bed.
Doctors plan to move him into rehabilitation, so he can work on regenerating the nerves in his feet.
Moffat has worked on tugboats and in fish plants, but during his stay in hospital, he met a chef who has inspired him to follow that as a career.
He said he’s overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from family, friends and total strangers following his ordeal.
“I definitely have a new appreciation of life, that’s for sure.”