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Community: Family recounts finding father in ravine

Posted: October 2, 2011 9:53 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2011 9:53 p.m.

More details are emerging as to how a family of amateur detectives found their missing father, whose car went off a cliff and plunged 200 feet into a ravine.

In a sit-down hospital interview with The Signal, relatives of crash survivor David La Vau recapped how their separate search teams converged on the same remote, unmarked spot even though they were unable to communicate with each other.

David La Vau, 67, was found alive at the bottom of a ravine, halfway between Castaic Lake and Lake Hughes, six days after his car went over a cliff on the winding Lake Hughes Road.

On Wednesday morning, the La Vau children went looking for their patriarch, said La Vau’s son, Sean, and other family members inside Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Saturday night.

No communication

One group set off from Santa Paula traveling east, another group left Lake Hughes traveling west.

Members of both groups got out several times and checked ravines, searching for a sign and yelling for a response.

As both groups headed down Lake Hughes Road from opposite ends, all cell phones stopped receiving a signal.

“We had no cell phones. We ended up with no communication,” said Lisa La Vau, David La Vau’s daughter. “We were 15 minutes apart, with God just moving us, meeting at the right place, boom, right where our father was, boom.”

Both groups converged on the same remote spot just west of Warm Springs Road, about 11 miles east of Castaic Lake, about 11 miles west of Lake Hughes, just as the sun was setting, and as stark darkness was setting in.

“We left from Santa Paula, and Jesse and Chardonnay left from Lake Hughes,” Sean La Vau said.

“When we were coming up, it was the seventh or eighth ravine lookout, but this one was not a lookout,” he said.

La Vau said he was traveling in a car driven by his friend, whom he identified only as Morgan.

Chance location

Morgan stopped at lookouts and wide shoulder areas in the winding country road.

At one point, however, he chose to stop at a spot on a particularly unaccommodating portion of road, one which lacked any convenient stopping area or shoulder.

“It was a real sharp corner at the mountain,” Sean La Vau said. “The cliff is right there and no guardrail.

“Morgan, which we believe was an angel, just stopped on the corner and said ‘Whoa, look at that.’

“He was, like, ‘Now that is like the spot you would see a car just thinking it’s not a hairpin turn and with no guardrail. — You just would fly off of that.’” La Vau said “So, he kind of goes really slow along the dirt, on the shoulder, and just stops, and I said ‘You know, let me get out real quick.’

“So I got out, Jessica got out, and, as I was getting out of the car, I thought I heard like a cat or — it was just a weird noise. And I said ‘What is that noise?’ Then I just said, ‘Hello,’ and it kind of echoed through the canyon,” La Vau said.

“And, that was the first time we heard ‘Help.’ And, I said, ‘Hello,’ and then it was a strong ‘Help ... help.’ And, that second time. Jessica said, ‘What? What?’ And, I said, ‘Oh my God. It’s my dad. It’s my dad. ’ And, that is the story.

“Then I ran up to the hill and looked down and I saw my dad’s car and, in my brain, I can’t even tell you what I thought.”

The story of the La Vau rescue is one people are expected to hear several times in the coming days as family members return phone calls to appear on television shows such as Jay Leno and “The Ellen Show.”

Signal Staff Writer Joel Rosario contributed to this report.


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