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Pender Island man recovering after four days trapped in van that went down embankment

Michael Cabeldu’s ordeal ended when a group of cyclists miraculously stopped for lunch beside the road and spotted the vehicle below.
Michael Cabeldu, centre, with, from left, Melody Wren, Linda Dean, Robert Walberg, Michael’s sister Wendy Stoll and Ted Vance at the Empress hotel tea room on Friday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Michael Cabeldu is doing remarkably well for a man who spent four days stuck in his van, broken and bruised, after the vehicle tumbled down an embankment between Sooke and Jordan River.

His ordeal ended when a group of cyclists miraculously stopped for lunch beside the road and spotted the vehicle below.

The 67-year-old from Pender Island said he had been in Victoria for a medical appointment on Nov. 9 and made a random decision to head out on a drive and catch some scenery.

“I ran into a fog bank instead of a cup of coffee,” he said with a chuckle on Friday from the Fairmont Empress Hotel, where he was celebrating his 50th high school reunion with classmates from Centennial Collegiate in Guelph.

“I came around a corner and it was just a wall of fog.”

Cabeldu said the van went down the bank for what he figured was about 125 feet.

“I hit a couple of saplings and some Scotch broom, and fortunately I hit a stump or I would have gone much further and I don’t think they would have found me.”

The RCMP issued a missing-person alert, but no one knew about his spontaneous trip outside the city.

Cabeldu already had a fracture to his arm and left knee from a fall in his driveway a few weeks before, and the plunge in the van not only reinjured his left knee but did in his right knee, as well.

He also suffered a cracked rib.

“I don’t bounce like I used to — I break now,” Cabeldu joked.

He admitted he hadn’t been wearing a seat belt, so he was thrown around inside the van.

Barely able to move, he spent a total of four days stranded in the vehicle.

He said he spent about a day and half of that just getting himself up from the floor on the van’s passenger side — where he had ended up — onto the seat.

Cabeldu said his mantra as he struggled to get there was “a quarter of an inch at a time.”

Despite all that, he gave a lighthearted thumbs up to the distant view of Juan de Fuca Strait he could see through his windshield.

He had a bit of water in the van from the condensation on the windows, and otherwise made do with an Oh Henry! bar and half a sandwich.

Cabeldu said he could see vehicles driving by up on the road but had no way of signalling them.

When the cyclists finally came by and stopped, he started to yell, and they caught sight of the van.

They made their way down to him before calling the police, and a short time later he was back at road level and being put in a medivac helicopter that took him to Victoria General Hospital.

“I was going into my fifth night and I wasn’t really looking forward to it,” Cabeldu said.

Cabeldu said he didn’t find out the cyclists’ names but knows they are from the University of Victoria, and hopes they will get in touch with him — perhaps through the police — so he can thank them properly.

“I want to take them out for steak and lobster,” he said.

He also wants to return the Patagonia tuque that one of the cyclists lent to him.

Cabeldu said he is feeling quite good now that his body is healing up, but still has a few aches.

“As I like to say: ‘I’m OK in places.’ ”