(CNN) — A 92-year-old man is recovering after falling down an embankment and spending the night stranded outside in below-freezing temperatures before he was rescued, officials said, an outcome his wife called a miracle.
The perilous incident began last week as Larry Hendrickson and his wife Shirley were driving from Yuma, Arizona, to their home in Newport, Washington. Shirley Hendrickson told CNN she was driving a U-Haul truck while Larry followed in the couple’s car.
There was an issue with the one of the truck’s tires somewhere around Baker City in northeastern Oregon, and the couple pulled over to call for a repair, Shirley said.
As Shirley used both her and her husband’s cell phones to try to get in contact with U-Haul or a tow truck, Larry said he was going to drive down the highway in the car to see if he could find a tire shop, she said.
The tire was eventually fixed, and Shirley got back on the road around 8 p.m. She said she decided to head home.
“It was dark, and I knew there was no way I was going to be able to find him,” Shirley said. “And I had both cell phones … because I’d been calling tow truck companies and U-Haul, so when he took off, he didn’t have his phone.”
As she was driving home, Shirley had friends leave notes for her husband in case he showed up at the house. When she got home around 3:30 a.m., Larry wasn’t there, she said, so she called Oregon State Police.
A few hours later, troopers told Shirley they found the car with the keys still inside, but her husband was missing.
The car was found in Baker County, just north of Baker City, state police said in a statement.
“I think in the dark he got upset and confused and off someplace where he didn’t know where he was at, and at some point in time, he just kind of stopped and fell asleep in the car,” Shirley told CNN said. “We don’t know what happened then, because the trooper said that the car had run for a while because part of the windshield was unfrozen.”
As Shirley was driving back to Baker City with friends, she got another phone call from police – this time with good news: they found her husband alive.
A trooper searching for Larry was about to give up and bring in a bigger search team, Shirley said.
But he stayed a bit longer. He called out Larry’s name and flashed his flashlight, she said.
“He happened to see part of a white tennis shoe and about four inches of his jeans. He ran down in this pit and found that he was covered up with brush and stuff, but said my husband was just minutes away from not making it,” she said.
Larry had apparently fallen down the embankment, state police said. He was found covered in vegetation, with temperatures below freezing.
Larry was taken to a local hospital, then transferred to an Idaho hospital “with a bigger team of doctors,” Shirley said. “He’s suffering from the effects of the hypothermia. He can’t walk very well; everything hurts,” Shirley said, noting her husband was released from the hospital after two days.
“He’s 92 years old,” she said. “It’s a miracle that he made it.”