4 Days Of Agony On Calif. Cliff

The view from the road: Los Angeles County firefighters put out a brush fire started to attract rescuers by a man who was trapped for three days in his van after plunging 200 feet off a cliff Thursday, Aug. 21, 2003, in Angeles National Forest, Calif. The man, who asked that his name and extent of injuries be withheld, was dehydrated but in good condition after being flown to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.
A driver stranded for about three days after his van plunged 500 feet off a mountain highway was rescued early Thursday by firefighters responding to a blaze he set to get attention.

The man, who asked that his name and extent of injuries be withheld, was dehydrated but in fair condition at a hospital on Thursday evening.

"He wants us to tell everybody that he's OK," said Connie Matthews, spokeswoman at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.

The two-acre blaze in Angeles National Forest was reported shortly before 8 a.m. and Los Angeles County firefighters sent to battle it discovered the man trapped in the van, said Capt. Roland Sprewell.

The van was lying on its side in brush far below Angeles Crest Highway, which rises quickly from the Los Angeles suburb of La Canada Flintridge into the San Gabriel Mountains.

"This person has been here since Monday," Sprewell said. "It's very steep and treacherous terrain."

The victim was strapped into a stretcher and hoisted by a helicopter out of the canyon, and the brush fire was doused within an hour.

"I don't want to encourage people to start fires, but if you're trapped for four days you gotta do what you gotta do," said firefighter Jeff Ziegler, who helped rescue the man.

Mathews said the man was "a little sketchy" on the details of the ordeal but did say that "he was able to start a fire so that he could alert people that he was there."

Ziegler said the man suffered facial injuries and swelling that made communicating with him difficult.

"He was in some pain and a little emotionally upset," said Ziegler. "He was mostly just relieved to know that he would be going home."