Local News

Man trapped in wrecked, flooded car for 10 hours

Posted November 13, 2008 6:08 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2008 10:10 p.m. EST

— A Roxboro man spent 10 hours overnight trapped in his wrecked car, hidden from sight in a roadside creek in Granville County.

Joseph Rodney Puryear, 41, said he blacked out around midnight Monday while driving home from work. His 1998 Chrysler hit an embankment and landed in a creek, near 6711 Old Roxboro Road, outside Oxford.

"It was so cold out there. Everything was frozen, my hands, my feet," Puryear said.

Cold water rushed into the car, and Puryear could not move his leg to get out. His cell phone, though, still worked.

Puryear called his mother, and she answered but couldn't hear a single word he said. He called his wife, but she was asleep and missed the call. Eventually, his cell-phone batteries ran out.

"It was miserable, because I kept hollering and all those cars kept passing by, and it did no good. Nobody heard me," Puryear said.

His wife, Denise, woke up around 3:30 a.m. and saw her husband had not come home. She organized family members to look for him.

"Where he was at, we had traveled that road and, probably, like four times had passed by him," Denise Puryear said. "Each one of us had passed him by, but nobody saw him."

The ditch where Puryear landed was completely isolated from the road, and no driver caught sight of his car throughout the night.

Temperatures plunged to 32 degrees and, 10 hours after the wreck, had risen to only 42 degrees.

In the morning, Puryear used his belt to pull himself from the car. Still yelling for help, he threw sticks at passing motorists.

"I kept hollering for help. Nobody heard me," he said.

Eventually, around 10:15 a.m., a nearby resident spotted Puryear crawling out of the creek. The resident called for help, and Puryear was flown to Duke University Medical Center in Durham.

Puryear suffered hypothermia and has a broken pelvis and kneecap. He has begun physical therapy, but wasn't sure when he would be able to go home.

Puryear said, however, that his biggest prayers were answered.

"I just prayed the whole time and did the best I could to get myself to safety," he said.