Man survives 4 days in SLC tunnel, may lose leg

Sep 4 2012 - 3:57pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- A 33-year-old man who was trapped in a Salt Lake County tunnel for four days says he could hear people walking and biking above him, but his cries for help were drowned out by nearby traffic.

Daniel Samuelsen spoke about his ordeal from his bed at St. Mark's Hospital, where he was waiting for news about whether his badly broken leg would need to be amputated.

"I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me. That was just awful," Samuelsen said Sunday.

Samuelsen describes himself as an avid hiker who wanted to show a friend an exciting shortcut through the tunnels on Wednesday. But when a rope that Samuelsen used during a previous trek in the tunnel was gone, the friend left and Samuelsen went on with the adventure alone.

He said he started crawling down the slope when his Vans shoes slipped, sending him hurtling about 50 feet down the chute and eventually hitting level ground with a loud crack.

His leg broken and bone protruding from the skin, Samuelsen hoped he could attract attention by banging on the side of the tunnel and yelling out to people nearby.

No answer. He tried to pull himself up with help from his good leg but failed.

Because he lives in a homeless shelter and works as an independent taxi driver, he figured nobody would notice he was gone.

"I was pretty convinced I was going to die," he said.

On Saturday, the hungry, dehydrated man said he spotted a piece of wood in the tunnel and "some stronger motivation came over me."

Pulling out his shoelaces, he lashed the wood to a travel pillow he used at the shelter, forming a makeshift splint.

Samuelsen said he was screaming in fear as he slid slowly down a pipe, then scooted another 100 yards or so to an opening near Tanner Park.

Backing through weeds and toward an orange construction barrel, he was finally able to flag down help.

From his hospital bed, Samuelsen said he was both relieved he survived and mad at himself for deciding to enter the tunnel in the first place.

"I'll never do that again."

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