Lynnell’s car had crashed down an embankment, sliding around 100 feet off the road and 30-40 feet beneath the edge. landing in the trees. She survived, trapped in the vehicle, for 5 days in the frigid cold before she was rescued.
Now as several mountain passes are closed, including Blewitt, the McFarlands reflects one road family will never forget.
The sun had just set over Blewitt Pass. A single car was on the road, and snow just starting to land on the ground. But even in those seemingly mild conditions, the worst can happen.
“I probably should have stayed another day and got up earlier and left earlier,” Lynnell McFarland said.
It was supposed to be a simple trip from Ellensburg back to Spokane, a trip Lynnell has done many times before. But this wasn’t like any other time.
“Just at the top of Blewitt, I hit some black ice,” she explained.
Her car drove off the edge, rolled 40 feet down an embankment, and hit a tree, stopping just short of an even steeper cliff.
Lynnell was supposed to be in Spokane that Thursday night, but instead she fought for her life as the bitter cold crept in.
“I had to cut myself out of the seatbelts. As I’m leaning back, starting to cut, I look at my hand. They didn’t come through my palm, but I had bones and tendons sticking out,” she recalled. “The first night, the temps dropped enough that I could feel the blood was freezing on my coat.”
As the windows were broken on impact, Lynnell used clothes and a hatchback cover to keep snow and rain out.
“There were two bags of clothes in the back that Amanda put in, one to donate, and I just started grabbing clothes and putting it on my hand for pressure.”
With over 40 years of experience as a registered nurse, it was then that she realized how different it could’ve gone.
“I had toes that got mildly frostbitten and two fingers,” she said. “I just forced myself to hyper-shiver so that I could keep the temperature up.”
Everything she needed to survive, water, cell phone, car keys, and medication–all of it was just out of reach.
“I had winter boots in the front, I couldn’t reach them. I stood up once thinking I could reach the stuff, not knowing that I had a torn ligament, and I couldn’t reach anything,” she said.
Days passed, and so did several people, including an officer. But they couldn’t see her.
“Kinda disheartening,” she said.
Nearly 5 days later, with no food and remarkably no water, Lynnell still had faith that someone would come.
“I literally could feel my parent’s arms around me, God’s arms around all of us,” she said. “I didn’t think about the fact that maybe I was going to die, and that’s why their arms were around me. I just prayed and said, ‘Dear God, I know I’m going to die someday. I don’t want it to be at the bottom of a ravine where I’m never found. Please send help.’ And within a half-hour, I could hear two men talking.”
Behind the scenes, Lynnell’s daughter Amanda, who had filed a missing person report, had also reached out to the community through billboards, news stations, and on Facebook. The efforts ended up being the saving grace Lynnell needed.
“These guys were two road crew guys, and he’d seen the Facebook post that morning and saw a reader board,” she said. “I mean, he was a savior.”
Right now, Lynnell is still recovering from a major surgery where doctors had to put rods and pins into her wrist and arm.
“They told me in Wenatchee I probably wouldn’t have full use of my hand, my right hand,” she said.
However, despite the long recovery ahead, it’s a miracle she left that car with her life.
Accidents like this illustrate how important it is to keep emergency gear in your car especially if you are driving on risky roads, preferably in a place easily accessible. While Lynnell was incredibly lucky, many more are unfortunately not found after accidents before exposure takes them.
Of course, medical bills are piling up for the McFarland family with the cost of surgeries, hospital stays, and the physical therapy and rehab Lynnell will need. For those who wish to help, the family has set up two GoFundMe pages, one for Lynnell’s bills as expenses, and one for Amanda as she takes time off work to care for her mother.