Missing 83-year-old survived on cranberries, rainwater
William "Bill" Gaston, of Blissfield, found safe after two days
An 83-year-old man from New Brunswick, who had been missing for two days, says he survived by sucking the juice from some cranberries and drinking rainwater from leaves.
William "Bill" Gaston, of Blissfield, near Doaktown, was found safe Saturday at about 11 a.m. by his sister's brother-in-law, Palle Neess, a volunteer searcher.
"It was sure nice when he came up behind me on that ATV," said Gaston, who had been missing since Thursday.
"I was slumped back, kind of half asleep, eh? And he was afraid to tap on the window [of my pick-up truck]. He didn't know what he was going to find. But I was OK. I stayed very positive the whole time I was there," he told CBC News.
Gaston was only slightly dehydrated and didn't require hospitalization. He said he "feels good.
"I was not afraid. I knew I'd be rescued," he said.
"But I'm grounded. My daughter's not going to let me drive that truck for a while."
Truck got stuck
Gaston was last seen driving his truck along Route 8, near the Green Bye Road, on Thursday afternoon.
He said he ran into trouble after driving up Tom Boyd Road to see a new water treatment facility.
"It was a road I'd travelled many times with my grandfather. And I had my old pick-up truck and I had no weight on the back. I started to go up this little hill and it was spinning. So I thought 'Well, I'll back up and get a run at it.'
"When I backed up, I dropped off the side of the road and the wheel went right out of sight [in the mud]. So I had to stay there for a couple of nights. And I guess they had many people out looking for me. But I was okay," he said.
"I'm an experienced woodsman and I was in the air force and learned all the survival techniques."
Gaston estimates he was about five kilometres in, not far from a new J.D. Irving Ltd., road. He could hear logging trucks "bootin' her" along.
But he wasn't able to walk out because it was too far for his "gimpy knees," he said, explaining that he had replacement surgery on both of them and walks with a cane.
He remembered what an old air force buddy used to say — 'Stay where you're to, 'til I come where you're at.'
Stayed with vehicle
"I knew it was best to stay with the vehicle," said Gaston, who had a two-way radio with him, but didn't realize it wasn't transmitting.
"I found some good drinking water right handy," in a nearby stream, he said. He just tried a handful at first and waited about a half an hour to make sure he didn't get sick. He also drank rainwater.
Gaston also had a bag of cranberries, which he wasn't sure he could eat uncooked, so he just sucked the juice out of a few of them once in a while and then spit them out.
"They taste a lot better when they're cooked, obviously, but they were OK," he said.
He had a pumpkin in the back of the truck, which he was planning to eat as a last resort the following day if he hadn't been found.
He didn't have a knife or spoon with him — "none of the gear that I should have had," he said.
Gaston usually has a survival kit in his truck, which includes an aluminum blanket, but it was at home in his basement.
"Not much good there," he said, adding he was going to put it back in his truck right away.
Gaston passed the 44 hours listening to the radio, reading a magazine and sleeping, he said.
His advice to others? "Tell somebody where you're going and how long you're going to be, because this is a big country," he said. "They searched for me on both sides of the river.
"And if you're an old guy like me, stay the hell out of there. Stay on the good highways."