Ryan Linneman’s wife hadn’t seen him since the night of Oct. 9.
She reported him missing the next day. In an attempt to find Linneman, a 37-year-old father from Lee’s Summit, police tried to pinpoint the location of his cellphone, search his social media and credit card activity, and used a license plate reader database.
They interviewed his family members, friends and co-workers, to no avail.
In the end, a chance encounter by a dirt bike rider seven days later found Linneman still alive. His damaged car was at the bottom of a wooded gully along a Kansas City highway. He was inside the car, severely injured.
“Never seen anything like it,” said Sgt. Bill Mahoney, a crash investigation supervisor for the Kansas City Police Department. “Especially this many days, if in fact he had been there that entire time, that would be really unusual.”
When the dirt bike rider, roaming trails in the area, came upon Linneman’s wrecked 2004 Honda Accord, he assumed the man inside was dead, Mahoney said. It’s something crash investigators have seen before.
But the biker realized the driver was still breathing and called police.
Considering the car was 175 feet from the highway, at the bottom of a steep, 50-foot incline between Raytown Road and View High Drive, hidden from the view of passing motorists on I-470, Mahoney said Linneman was incredibly fortunate the motorcyclist found him. Mahoney pointed out that the tan car blended in with the fall foliage.
“He’s in an area where I can’t think of another way that someone would have found him,” Mahoney said.
Linneman was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to the Lee’s Summit Police Department. He remained unconscious Thursday afternoon in the intensive care unit.
He could survive, Mahoney said.
Missing for days
After Linneman was reported missing, Lee’s Summit police asked for help finding him. At the time, police said they had exhausted all normal means of finding a missing person.
About 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, the dirt bike rider spotted the Honda Accord. Kansas City police responded to the area and found Linneman.
Crash investigators determined that Linneman’s car had been eastbound on I-470 when it ran off the right shoulder, struck a sign along the road and then traveled down a steep incline. It crashed at the bottom of the gully.
Investigators haven’t seen any evidence that another car was involved in the crash, Mahoney said. It appeared Linneman’s vehicle drifted off the road, he said.
Detectives were working Thursday to narrow down the timeline of the crash, but it had proved difficult, police said. Though the road is heavily traveled, no one reported seeing the crash. There were no video cameras in the area.
Sgt. Chris Depue, a spokesman for Lee’s Summit police, said those who searched for Linneman were relieved he was found. They remained thankful for the chance encounter with the dirt bike rider, he said.
Linneman’s relatives said they were not ready to speak publicly. In a post on Facebook, one relative asked for continued prayers for Linneman’s recovery, saying he was dealing with multiple medical problems.
“We are blessed to be able to say that he is alive,” the statement said.
Temps fell into 30s
On social media, some drivers expressed shock Thursday at the discovery because they had driven by the area but had failed to see Linneman’s car. Others were amazed Linneman was alive at all.
Tracy McDonald, a registered nurse and director of trauma at the University of Kansas Health System, said situations in which someone is unconscious and missing for days are not unheard of.
“This happens a few times a year,” she said.
The most common incidents are when elderly people have fallen in their homes and gardens and are not discovered for several days. But they also happen with crashes, McDonald said.
The chance of someone surviving a period of time after a traumatic event depends on a variety of factors, such as the person’s age, whether they have any underlying medical conditions, how severely injured they are and the environment, McDonald said.
It rained twice while Linneman was missing, according to the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill.
On most days, temperatures fluctuated with highs in the 60s and 70 but overnight temperatures fell into the 30s and 40s at times. The coldest temperature after the crash came Saturday morning at 34 degrees.
Had it stayed under 40 or 50 degrees, a person would not be expected to survive after a few days, depending on what he or she had to keep warm, McDonald said.
Access to water also becomes a factor. A person is usually not expected to survive more than three or four days without water or some kind of liquid, McDonald said. People can generally go three weeks without food.
Police do not know if Linneman had anything in the car to eat or drink. He was found unconscious, but Mahoney said it would be impossible for investigators to know if Linneman was unconscious from the time he crashed until he was found. There was no evidence Linneman got out of the vehicle, he said.
With the winter months approaching, McDonald urged people to have a winter safety pack in their car with a cellphone and backup battery booster and First Aid kit. Generally, she suggested people have tracking apps on the phones of their teenagers or elderly relatives who drive, in case they don’t show up somewhere while driving.
“The biggest thing is avoiding not being discovered,” McDonald said.