Friday, March 25, 2011

Crowning Moments! A Story of Survival and Attitude

It was December 28, a day Matt Lucia, (Richard's first cousin,) will never forget. A horrible helicopter crash and temperatures below freezing, nobody would have believed he could have survived the night, but he did.  Here is his true life story about attitude and survival.

Matt worked for the fish and game department in Idaho.  He and his team were doing a study on the concentration of mountain lions in a remote area four hours back up in the mountains near Boise, Idaho.  The team consisted of the helicopter pilot, the biologist co-pilot, and Matt.  The three of them had found a mountain lion trail that they were following, trying to track the animal.  Matt was sitting in the back seat of the helicopter taking notes and writing down data.

All was going well until the  helicopter abruptly stopped, as if it had hit a glass wall.  Although none of them saw it, a snag, a tall tree, a remnant left over from a fire from ten years before, was sticking above the tree line.  As the helicopter rounded the mountainside, the snag was in a blind spot.  The helicopter hit the tree on the co-pilot's side, killing him on impact.  All of a sudden, they were plummeting downward.  Matt saw the pilot look back at him and then reach down.  It was as if time slowed, and then the crash. 

As he fell, Matt doesn't remember hearing the aircraft's engine. He is convinced that the last act by the pilot of reaching down and turning off the engine helped save his life.

Initially, Matt felt no pain.  The impact of hitting the ground broke his seat belt and threw him against the top side of the helicopter.  The pilot had obviously died during the crash. 

As Matt tumbled out of the mangled shell, he realized he couldn't stand.  He could just reach a survival kit inside the craft and gathered the supplies he could.  He attempted to get back in the helicopter to spend the night but was unable to work his legs to accomplish this.  In his reach, he accessed an orange tarp that he spread as best he could over the snow and laid on. He had eight flares, a mirror for signaling, and a few other things.  His clothing was inadequate, at best, for the freezing temperatures.  Because he could hardly move, he couldn't go find shelter.  His only hope was to wait out the night and signal eventual rescuers to his whereabouts.  Because of the location of the crash site, he was concerned it would be quite some time before they found him.

By now, the pain had started, caused by unknown internal injuries.  Because of his lack of warm clothing, his whole body would go into spasms.  He remembers hearing his screams of pain echoing up the canyon.  At this point, he knew it would be easier to give up.  Because of his training, he knew his chances of survival were slim.  It was just too cold, he had no shelter, little clothing, and possible life-threatening internal damage.

This was the turning point in his story of survival.  He thought first of his mother.  He knew she would wonder if he had suffered before he died.  He thought of his friends and family and the happy experiences he had growing up.  He then remembered a story a mission companion had shared of a man in Russia. 

The man had got locked in a refrigerated box car.  He had access to pen and paper.  When they found him, his dying thoughts were alongside him.  "It's starting to get cold.  I know that there's a limited amount of air."  A few hours later, he wrote, "It's getting colder.  I can tell it's getting harder to breath."  The last thing he wrote was, "It's so cold.  I am having a hard time breathing."

When the man was found, rescuers noted that the boxcar was ventilated and the refrigeration was turned off.  The temperatures never got below 50 degrees and there was plenty of air.  They couldn't figure out what caused his death, except his own despairing attitude.  He gave up living.

This put the determination to survive back in Matt.  He knew he had to fight if he was going to live.

Even though he couldn't control much, he had his attitude and his Heavenly Father.  I'm sure he prayed as never before.  He knew he wasn't alone.  It was that knowledge that carried him through until, 18 hours later, he heard rescue helicopters searching for him.  Using his flares, he hoped to signal them.  Because of the position of the sun and the location of the crash site, rescuers were unable to see them.  Matt knew he'd have to do something different.  After much effort, he got the orange tarp he was on and, when he heard another helicopter coming, he began waving it with all his might. 

Thankfully, the helicopter circled and signaled Matt to let him know they saw him, the ultimate in "crowning moments".  The only place to land was quite a ways from where the crash had occurred.  But the rescue efforts began.

Matt ended up having frostbite on fingers and toes, broken ribs, he broke a few vertebrae, the muscles all along his pelvis, where the seat belt had been, were torn, (the reason he couldn't walk,) a punctured lung, among other injuries.

His complete recovery was long in coming.  Not only did he suffer physical trauma, but mental, as well.  His story is inspirational.and his strength and determination incredible.  We love you, Matt, and are thankful for the blessing we have in your story to live and your testimony that we're never alone.


  1. What an amazingly powerful story of survival. I am so loving the theme I picked this week, it has really dug up some gems.
    This makes me want to work even harder for my goals in life and never give up even when all hope seems lost. Thank for joining my blog hop as always :)

  2. Wow! We watch stories like this on TV sometimes on that show. . . I can't think of what it's called, but all rights the people shouldn't have survived. It really is a testimony to the spirit of people! Thank you for sharing the story!


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