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76-Year-Old Woman Uses Wits to Survive Canyon Plunge

June 22, 1991

LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) _ A 76-year-old woman who suffered broken bones and cuts when her car plunged 160 feet into a canyon survived for three days without food and water, using her wits to stay alive.

Helen Kear used a pocket knife to cut her seat belt and free herself from the upside-down wreckage. She used a stick and pantyhose to make a splint for her broken wrist.

She was recuperating in good condition Friday after her rescue Thursday. Kear lost control of her car Monday night on winding, mountainous state route 175 and the vehicle plunged into the canyon.

Kear tried unsuccessfully to signal for help by banging a stick on the car’s side. When the temperature dropped into the 40s, she cut the felt lining from the car trunk and used it as a blanket.

The car was spotted by a California Highway Patrol search plane.

″She’s a very resourceful lady,″ said CHP Officer Keith Averett, who found Kear sitting calmly in the brush after he climbed down into the canyon.

The canyon was too steep for her to climb out, he said.

″She was banged-up pretty good. That seat belt saved her,″ Averett said. She’s a lucky lady.″

Kear’s husband reported his wife missing Wednesday morning after she failed to return from the airport after a trip to Iowa, where she participated in a bowling tournament. He hadn’t known the exact date of her planned arrival home.

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