July 26, 2011 -- A mentally ill Texas man who was reported missing when he left home following a dispute with his girlfriend was found down a manhole, alive but dehydrated and with multiple snake bites.
An incident report from the League City police department in League City, Texas, described 25-year-old Kevin Gonterman as "an intoxicated adult male with paranoid schizophrenia" who "ran away from home after getting into an argument."
Gonterman left his League City home around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. He was found around 10:30 a.m. Monday, but it took rescuers several hours to remove him from the manhole, which was located in a wooded area about half a mile from his home.
Frank Black, who led a team of volunteer rescuers from Texas Equusearch, a nonprofit group that searches for missing people all across the nation, told ABC News that Gonterman's mother contacted his organization on Sunday night. They started searching around 9:30 a.m. Monday.
"We got a call from the family of the man … and they told us that he had some problems with his girlfriend and he ran out the house and [was] possibly suicidal," Black said.
While League City police were reaching out to Gonterman's associates and checking his place of business, about 18 searchers from Texas Equusearch gathered with maps and ATVs to begin searching the wooded area near Gonterman's home.
"I instructed them to turn over every leaf, every limb, look up in the trees," Black said, recalling the instructions he gave to the search team.
'He's Alive But in Bad Shape'
About 45 minutes into the operation, searcher Robert Powell called Black with news.
"He said 'I found him.' I said 'dead or alive?'" Black recalled. "He said, 'he's alive but in bad shape.'"
The missing man was lying in the bottom of a manhole that was about 30 feet deep and about 30 inches wide.
Gonterman was curled up on the ground and didn't appear to be moving.
"When Robert yelled for … some of the others to come and assist him, [Gonterman] kind of moaned and moved and they knew he was alive," Black said.
The Houston Fire Department was called, and it took them several hours to remove Gonterman from the manhole. During that time, the man was speaking "incoherently," Black said.
He was transported to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center in Houston. A hospital spokesman last night said Gonterman was in good condition.
League City police had no comment last night, referring media inquiries to a press release it issued earlier in the day in which it outlined the timeline of Gonterman's disappearance and rescue.
Rescuers believe Gonterman may have fallen down the hole as he walked across the wooded field in the dark. The manhole had no cover, Black said.
One person said Gonterman had been bitten "at least 5 times," apparently by venomous cottonmouth water moccasins, Black added.
Black said he was gratified to have been able to give the family good news.
"This family was very worried about him and when we were able to tell them that he'd been found alive, they were, they just went berserk with joy," he said. "They were so happy. You know when you see that, that you've accomplished your goal, and it's a great feeling when you're able to tell them 'yes, he's been found and he's alive.' We hate that he's in such bad physical shape right now … but it could have been so much worse."