Duncan Moffat, a North Island man who was rescued from a smashed pickup truck on Tuesday, would likely have died if a hunter from Sayward hadn’t decided to spend a little bit more time in the bush.
The Sayward man, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons, told the Mirror that he was ready to go home after three hours of unsuccessful deer hunting on Tuesday afternoon.
But he felt strangely compelled to continue hunting at another nearby spot, between the Salmon River and Hwy. 19 near Sayward.
“I was cold, tired and hungry, and I wanted to go home,” he said. “But I just felt like I had to go there and hunt a bit more.”
He soon noticed a vehicle in the distance. An old wreck had been there for decades, he said, but this looked unusual.
“I put my binoculars on it from about 200 yards away,” he said. “I could see it was really beat up.”
As he approached the truck, he heard Moffat’s voice, at first thinking it was someone on the highway above.
“I noticed there was someone slumped over the steering wheel,” the man said. “He was completely still.”
But just as the hunter approached the truck, Moffat – who was pinned by the steering wheel – turned and said, “Hey!”
The shock of the encounter caused the hunter to “just about jump out of my skin,” he said.
Moffat was “upbeat and as polite as can be,” the hunter said. “He apologized for startling me.”
After talking to Moffat for a while, the man made his way to the highway and flagged down the first car that came along.
The driver went to call 911 – the Sayward area is almost completely without cellphone service – while the hunter stayed with Moffat. First responders soon arrived on the scene.
Moffat’s family members have said they believe he was stuck for five days. A police officer from the Sayward RCMP said it’s unclear how long he was down there.
But at the time, Moffat told the hunter that he’d been there for only 45 minutes.
“I could tell right away that it was way longer than 45 minutes,” the man said.
The intense orange colour of an alder tree scraped by the vehicle was a telltale sign, he said.
“It had been scraped at least a day before,” said the man, who worked for over 40 years in the logging industry. “Alder turns a different colour.”
The cabin of the smashed truck was also littered with 15-20 apple cores that Moffat had apparently been eating while pinned inside the truck, the hunter said. A box of apple seems to have spilled as the vehicle plummeted from the steep embankment, about 12-15 metres above.
The hunter said that although Moffat spoke clearly, he was clearly delirious.
“He was saying that his dad was on the other side of the truck,” the man said. “There was nobody there of course.”
The truck driven by Moffat almost collided with an old wreck that had been in that same spot in the woods for many years, according to the lifelong Sayward resident.
“Darn if he didn’t plow right into it,” the man said. “[He] came all the way off the highway and down the bank and hit this wreck that had been there for decades.”
The old wrecked vehicle was “just hanging off [Moffat’s] front bumper,” the man said. “So he wasn’t the first to go down there.”
The hunter declined credit for saving the young man’s life, attributing the chance encounter to God.
“I think God was sending me to him,” he said. “Normally I would’ve just gone home and sat by the fire and had a cup of coffee.”
Moffat’s mother, Lynn Macnab, conveyed her “profound gratitude” to the hunter in a message to the Mirror.
She said that Moffat is in stable condition despite several injuries, including a broken femur, bruised vertebrae and damage to his liver and spleen. He’s now being treated in an intensive care unit for issues including a blood clot in his lung and nerve damage, she said.