Nova Scotia

How a bit of luck, a dog and a Facebook post led to a man's frosty rescue

A Facebook post, a photo of a wrecked car and more than a bit of luck led to an incredible rescue of a Nova Scotia man who was seriously injured and exposed to the elements for nearly a day.

Police dog finds missing 19-year-old in dead of night 23 hours after he was last seen

RCMP said the man was the only person in the car speed, alcohol or another vehicle were not apparent factors in the crash. (CBC)

A Facebook post, a photo of a wrecked car and more than a bit of luck led to an incredible rescue of a Nova Scotia man who was seriously injured and exposed to the elements for nearly a day.

Westville, N.S., tow truck driver Brian Ward said it all started Saturday when a friend sent him a photo of a car wreck he passed in Salt Springs, located about 1.5 hours northeast of Halifax. The friend wondered whether Ward was called to tow it away. He wasn't.

Later Saturday night, while he was lying in bed with his wife, she saw a post on Facebook asking for help finding a 19-year-old man who was missing from a New Glasgow pub. 

"And when she read off the description of the car, I jumped right out of bed because that's the car my friend sent me a picture of. So I jumped out of bed and I said to my wife, 'C'mon we have to go,'" Ward told CBC As it Happens host Carol Off. 

Ward called his friend to ask where he had seen the car, and said, "What's the chances of that being the car of this 19-year-old boy?' I said, 'Let's go check it out,' and away we went."

The 19-year-old New Glasgow man had been reported missing on Saturday after he was last seen at a pub in the town at about 2 a.m. Temperatures hovered around 0 C in the area on Saturday, according to Environment Canada. 

Steering wheel was in a tree, no sign of man

It was dark when Ward, his wife and his friend arrived at the scene, but it didn't take long to find the empty, heavily damaged Mazda 3 down the steep embankment off Highway 4. They called 911.

"While we were waiting we were searching, trying to find the young fella because we honestly didn't think that we were going to find anybody alive because the car was totally mangled," said Ward. "The steering wheel was in the tree."

Along with police, the three continued to search for the missing man before Cpl. Mark Murnaghan and his five-year-old German shepherd partner, Bo, arrived. 

"They searched the area I think with some flashlights and they couldn't locate anybody so they asked if I would take the dog down and have a look," said Murnaghan.

"So that's what I did. I took my partner Bo down the embankment and cut him loose and within a couple minutes he located the individual laying, laying kind of unresponsive in the woods."

That was about 23 hours after he was last seen at the New Glasgow pub.

The man was about 30 metres from the car. 

"It looks like he crawled to safety and sat on a tree that was a windfall and just fell over backwards. So he was in between two trees," said Ward.

A dog's nose knows

Murnaghan said he shined his flashlight over the man's face and he turned his head so he knew he was alive. 

"So I just signalled to the rest of the people in the area that he was alive and had to get him warmed up and everybody just kind of sprung into action, got some blankets and jackets and warmed him up," he said.

Cpl. Mark Murnaghan and his partner Bo found the missing man in Salt Springs on Saturday. (Submitted by Cpl. Mark Murnaghan)

Meanwhile, the West River Fire Department got to work clearing a path to the man with a chainsaw so paramedics could reach him. 

Murnaghan said it would have been tough to find the man without Bo's help.

"In a wooded area like that, when it's pitch black out, even if you do have flashlights and things, it's easy to miss in the woods," he said.

"I've been working a dog since 2007 and I've been in lots of situations where if we didn't have a dog we wouldn't have found the individual. I mean, it's very easy in a situation like that to walk almost right over somebody or within a foot or two of somebody."

Drugs, alcohol, speed not apparent factors

The man suffered serious injuries and RCMP said he was cold and "experiencing discomfort," but was expected to survive.

"We can't believe that this happened, like, it's just amazing," said Ward. "And the funny thing was, it was my birthday. It was quite the birthday gift. It'll be hard to top that."

RCMP said the man was the only person in the car. The investigation is ongoing, but police said speed, alcohol or another vehicle were not apparent factors in the crash.

With files from As It Happens