Woman Survives 8 Days in Wrecked Car

Husband complains about police reluctance to launch full-scale search.

ByABC News via logo
February 12, 2009, 3:03 PM

Sept. 28, 2007 — -- Tanya Rider, a Washington State woman, remains in critical condition in a Seattle hospital after she was found Thursday in a gully where she had laid trapped inside her overturned car for eight days.

Her relieved husband told "Good Morning America" that red tape and reluctance by police delayed the start of a full-scale search.

Rider, 33, was last seen leaving her job at a grocery store Sept. 19, but authorities said her husband did not alert police until four days after she was missing.

Tom Rider said today on "Good Morning America" that that wasn't the case.

"That's incorrect," he said. "The first Kings County [911]operator I called refused to take the report because [they said], 'She's an adult and can go where she wants.' Even though I was telling them that something's wrong, this is not her."

Rider's husband also said he had cooperated fully with the police — allowing them to search his house, vehicle and his computer for any evidence.

Meanwhile, detectives were able to narrow their search after roughly pinpointing Rider's cell phone signal. They eventually spotted her car in some matted brush along the road she routinely traveled to and from work.

Ironically, the good news came just as Tom Rider was sitting down with authorities to take a polygraph test. He said he agreed to the test so he could be eliminated as a suspect as fast as possible.

"I wanted to make sure they weren't focused on me, and they were looking for Tanya," he told "GMA."

King's County sheriff's spokesperson Deputy Rodney Chinnick told The Associated Press that while it's been a "heart-wrenching experience" for the Rider family, they followed procedures in this case.

"It's not like we didn't take him seriously," Chinnick said, but mounting a search after a person is missing for one day is not practical. "We don't take every missing person report on adults...If we did, we'd be doing nothing but going after missing person reports."

The desperate search for Tanya Rider ended Thursday along a rural highway in Washington state.

After being reported missing for eight days, Rider was found trapped in her car at the bottom of a ravine. Her family and rescuers feared she had been kidnapped or worse, until a signal from her cell phone saved her life.

Rider is now in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

"She's fighting for her life and [is] in danger of losing her leg," her husband said today on "GMA."

Rider is also suffering from kidney failure and has sores on her body from being trapped in the same position for so long, her husband said.

"If she's been here the whole time she's been missing, this is miraculous that she's still alive, with no food and water for several days," said Sgt. Dave Divis of the Washington State Patrol.

Although Tanya Rider was coherent when she was admitted to the hospital, Tom Rider has been unable to speak to his wife and ask her about her ordeal.

"She's been incubated since the first time I've seen her so no, she has not been able to talk," he said.

Rider was alert and talking when authorities found her pinned inside her crumpled Honda at the bottom of a deep ravine.

"She was still behind the wheel, pinned against the front end of the car and the side of the car," Jeff Merrill, a trooper with the Washington State Patrol, told "GMA." "All the air bags had deployed. But due to the crushing of the vehicle, she had been pinned in the vehicle and not able to exit the car on her own because of her injuries."

It took rescuers more than an hour to free her from the wreckage. Dehydrated and pale, she was airlifted to a Seattle hospital where her relieved loved ones were waiting.

"I'm just grateful she wasn't dead, kidnapped," her mother, Nancy Loe, said. "We didn't know where she was."

The remarkable discovery comes weeks after a Maryland teenager survived a similar plunge down a ravine. It took college student Julian McCormick two days to free himself from his car and more than a week before rescuers found him.

Many questions remain unanswered in the Seattle case, including when and why Rider went off the road, and how she survived. For now, though, her family is just happy to know she's alive.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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