Man rescued from car crashed off I-94 near Portage ID'd; union describes him as 'positive, kind'

ByMark Rivera, Eric Horng, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, December 28, 2023
Long recovery ahead for man rescued from crashed car after nearly a week
While he will recover, Matt Reum has a long road ahead of him after he was rescued nearly a week after he crashed his truck near I-94 in Portage.

PORTAGE, Ind. (WLS) -- The man who had been trapped in his crashed truck for several days and was rescued after fishermen found the wreck under an Interstate 94 overpass Tuesday afternoon has been identified, and is being described as a "positive, kind, and energetic person," by his union.

Matthew R. Reum, 27, is recovering, a spokesman for Boilermakers Local 374 and Indiana State Police said Wednesday.

The union spokesman said they spoke with him Tuesday night.

"We are thankful Matt is alive and grateful for the men who found him. Matt's strong will and toughness speak volumes through this ordeal," the spokesman said.

Reum had to have part of his leg amputated due to his injuries, and remains in the intensive care unit, the spokesman said.

"Matthew is a great guy, always smiling, coming to work in a joyful mood. He's a hard worker, too great welder. There's not enough good things to say about the guy," said his friend Mike Ortiz.

Ortiz has worked with Reum as a fellow union boilermaker going from job to job. He said Reum is a talented welder.

"Our tradesmen, our union brothers, even from other crafts. I hope everybody gets together and help him. Helps him out he lost his leg, and I just hope that they kinda look at how our careers go, and that he may need some support at this moment," he said.

His friends are raising money for his medical expenses and recovery.

Memorial Hospital, where Reum is being treated, released a statement saying in part, "Matt Reum wants to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and all the well wishes, including the good Samaritans who found him, the first responders and his caregivers at Memorial Hospital."

"Matt knows he has a story to tell, and when he is ready, he plans to share details of that experience," the statement continued. "Until then, Matt has asked us to share this message, while also requesting privacy during this time for himself, his family and friends. He adds, 'No matter how tough things get, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes in the least expected way.'"

Indiana State Police said two fishermen - Nivardo Delatorre of Portage and his father-in-law Mario Garcia of Hobart, were walking along Salt Creek about 1 mile east of the Portage exit when they saw a crashed car under the bridge, hidden from plain view, under an overpass under I-94 between US 20 and State Road 249.

They looked into the car and found a man inside. Garcia said they thought he was dead and reached out to touch him to confirm, when the man woke up, turned his head toward them and began to speak.

"He had a jacket almost like mine and all I seen was this part, the shoulder. The moment I touched the shoulder he swung around. He woke up," Garcia said.

Indiana State Police and good Samaritans Mario Garcia (left) and Nivardo Delatorre (right) speak about a man trapped for several days who was rescued from a crashed car Monday.

The two good Samaritans called 911. They said the driver told them he'd been stranded and paralyzed in place since last Wednesday.

"One more day and something could have been very different here," Garcia said.

"We were put there for a reason," said Delatorre.

State police said Reum was rescued and airlifted to a trauma center near South Bend.

State police said he was trapped for several days, possibly up to a week, and has life-threatening injuries. They said the effort to extricate him from the wreck was complex and took several hours.

"They had a very difficult time getting down into the creek area with their equipment basically to cut him out and remove him," Sgt. Glen Fifield said.

Police said the man had not been reported missing. He could not reach his phone to call for help.

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Police said it was "a miracle" he was alive, and noted that the weather this Christmas season has been warmer and milder than normal.

Police also said Reum was able to drink rainwater to help him survive.

Reum's union said he has been a member since 2015, and was originally a member of Boilermakers Local 455 in Tennessee before moving to the South Bend area in 2021.

He is a welder, among other things, and a good asset to his trade, the spokesman said.

"Since I have known Matt, he has always been a positive, kind, and energetic person. We will continue to pray and support our brother as he begins his recovery. We thank God that Matt is still with us," the spokesman said.

A close friend set up a GoFundMe for Reum, which had already raised over $3,000 Wednesday morning.