A Bowie State student who survived for a week pinned upside down in his wrecked car used a pocket knife to cut himself free from his seat belt, dipped his shoe into a stream to drink and ate a fish he found, his mother said yesterday.
"Thank goodness he had the knife, or else he would have been stuck," Peggy McCormick said of her son, Julian. "He's in fair condition, in a lot of pain, but he's getting better. ... He's truly blessed."
Julian McCormick escaped Saturday from his Honda Civic, which had crashed into a ravine in Beltsville on Sept. 1, police said. The 18-year-old was apparently driving on a rural stretch of Powder Mill Road when he lost control of his car for unknown reasons, authorities said. The car went over a cement roadside barrier and plunged down a slope into a creek, upside down.
Prince George's County police issued a missing-person bulletin after McCormick failed to show up at his girlfriend's apartment. He had left his dorm Sept. 1 to drive to the apartment, but he never showed up.
Investigators and his family searched everywhere for the Bowie State University freshman, including driving up and down the roads around his home on Laurel Grove Court in Laurel.
Then, about 5 p.m. Saturday, a woman was driving with her mother and children on Powder Mill Road in Beltsville when she saw a teenager lying on the side of the road with a head injury, reaching out his fingers for help.
The woman, Leigh Ann Hess, ran over to help, and he told her his name was Julian McCormick. Hess' mother called 911, and McCormick was taken to Washington Hospital Center.
"We expect him to recover. ... The officers didn't see any major injuries," said Sgt. Robert Lachance, spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction because the crash happened on U.S. Department of Agriculture land.
McCormick, a sousaphone player in the Baltimore Ravens marching band, graduated last spring from Laurel High School, his mother said. He enrolled this semester at Bowie State University, where he plays in the school's marching band.
After band practice Sept. 1, McCormick left campus to drive home and then to his girlfriend's house, his mother said.
He suffered a lot of cuts during the crash, but no broken bones, Peggy McCormick said. He was probably unconscious and then trapped for several days in the wooded ravine before cutting himself free.
"He's been through a lot out there," Peggy McCormick said. "He took off his shoe, and scooped it into the swampy water and was drinking that. ... Mostly he's been talking about how nasty the water was."
She said her son also told her he found a fish in the stream and ate it. After he cut himself free from his seat belt, he climbed up the bank to the side of the road, but then had trouble catching the attention of drivers, she said.
"He said his arms were hurting so bad, he tried to wave but nobody could see him," she said.
Cpl. Diane Richardson, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman, said she has no reason to doubt the account. "It's an incredible story," said Richardson. "But there is no evidence to say it did not happen."