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Teen-Ager Eats Spiders, Snow to Survive Six Days Lost in Forest

January 2, 1989

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A 15-year-old who got lost in the Cleveland National Forest survived six days and bitter-cold nights by sleeping in hollow logs and eating snow and spiders, his mother said.

″I don’t know how he did it, being out there in 20 degrees and below,″ Debbie Campbell said of her son, Andrew. ″He kept telling himself he had more to do in life. He’s a strong boy, and he’s got a will to live.″

The boy was in fair condition early today at Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he was being treated for minor frostbite and hunger, hospital spokeswoman Pauline Renner said.

″His feet are swollen ... and very bruised,″ said Mrs. Campbell of rural Guatay. ″He’s lost about 20 pounds.″

A father and son who had gone for a drive in the eastern San Diego County backcountry found the missing teen-ager Friday, three days after authorities abandoned their search despite protests by his parents.

Though the boy was wearing several pairs of socks, thermal underwear, a flannel shirt and Army field jacket, nighttime temperatures dipped into the 20s for several days while he was missing.

″It’s just a miracle that he was found alive out there as low as the temperatures dropped,″ Mrs. Campbell said.

The youth had become separated from a friend while returning home Dec. 23 from an overnight fishing trip with a group of boys. He had frostbitten feet and toes when he arrived at the hospital by ambulance, Renner said.

Mrs. Campbell said her son couldn’t remember some things that happened or the order in which events occurred. But he could recall crawling, walking and jogging through the forest, eating snow and spiders, sleeping in a hollow log and burying himself under a mound of dirt to stay warm, she said.

″I asked him, ‘How can you eat spiders?’ and he said, ’I plucked off the legs and ate them,‴ Mrs. Campbell said.

The boy was rescued by Bill Orsborn, 60, a retired firefighter from La Mesa, and his son, Mark, 29.

″He was just off under some oak trees wandering around,″ Bill Orsborn said. ″He was disoriented. He didn’t know where he was, how long he was out there or what day it was.″

While driving him back to Guatay, about 60 miles east of downtown San Diego, Campbell recalled how he ate handfuls of snow because water in the ravines was foul, the elder Orsborn said.

″He mentioned that he had tried to eat some crawdads from a stream, but that they made him sick,″ Orsborn said.

Authorities had abandoned their search Tuesday after dogs trailing his scent lost it near a roadside. Sheriff’s officials said they believed Campbell, who ran away from home once before, hitched a ride out of the forest and was safe.

″I do feel angry that they just quit,″ Mrs. Campbell said. ″We didn’t give up, though. We had a search party ready to go.″

A taped statement issued by the sheriff’s department said officials will review how the search for Campbell was conducted.

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