ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — A former Marine sniper who suffers from panic attacks and fled on foot following a minor traffic accident in Oregon was found after two days in the snow.
Jason D. Cooper, 37, of Temecula, Calif., was found Wednesday in a remote wooded area lying on tree branches, trying to keep warm, Oregon State Police said.
He was taken to a Roseburg hospital and transferred to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland where nursing supervisor Phyllis Riggs said he’s listed in critical condition but stable condition and likely to be upgraded Friday.
Cooper had been driving Monday when he was involved in a low-speed rear-end collision on Highway138D, which runs through the Umpqua National Forest.
The other driver was surprised to see Cooper, wearing shorts and sandals, run off through the snow into the woods, The Oregonian reported Friday.
Police followed tracks through snow 2-feet deep but had to stop at dark.
They became more concerned when they discovered he has post-traumatic stress disorder and had run-ins with law enforcement.
“I found out that he had panic attacks during stressful situations and sometimes just had to run away,” said Sgt. Dave Randall, also an ex-Marine.
Randall and Senior Trooper Don Frerichs of the Fish and Wildlife Division returned to the crash scene and followed the tracks for more than five miles on snowmobiles.
When they came upon Cooper, obviously suffering from hypothermia, Randall addressed him as Staff Sgt. Cooper and asked him how he was doing.
“He asked me how I knew he was a Marine and I said, `Hey, a Marine always knows a fellow Marine.’ After that, we were fast friends.”
Cooper told the troopers that at one point he removed his sandals because the straps were cutting his feet. He walked several miles through deep, crusty snow in his bare feet until the ice slashed into his skin, so he put the sandals back on.
He told them that he was so cold he could not stand up. When Randall asked him if he was scared being out in the woods alone for two days, Cooper replied, “Of what?”
After Randall and Frerichs gave Cooper a sandwich and extra clothing, they bundled him onto a snowmobile and took him back to the highway.
“The amazing thing is he will not have any long-lasting effects from the hypothermia or frostbite,” Randall said. “He’s a tough, tough guy, physically and mentally tough. The real deal.”