The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 7:58 am

Serendipitous rescue for injured trail runner

Frank Gray

Naoma Amburgey thinks back 30 years to the strange comment her oldest son, Craig, made to her one day when he was 19.

He told her, "If something ever happens, you don’t have to worry about Phil," Craig’s youngest brother, who was 3 years old at the time.

It might have been just a thoughtful comment, Amburgey says, but it was odd, and she’d recall it from time to time. Now, she says, she understands what her son meant.

Fast forward to last Saturday. Craig is grown up, 49. Phil is grown up, too, 33 and an avid runner who was just getting back into shape after a winter off.

Despite the cold weather and the rain, Phil had gone out to Franke Park to rack up some miles in the woods. About an hour into his run, though, Phil had an accident. He was running across a wooden bridge. It was wet and slick.

In an instant, he slipped, and the larger bone in his lower leg snapped just below the knee. That caused his weight to suddenly shift to his ankle, which also snapped. Phil ended up a crumpled mass on the ground.

It was a bad situation. Phil normally carried a cellphone with him when he ran, but he’d left it in his van. It was cold and rainy. No one would be walking in the woods. There was no telling how long he might be there.

So he tried to crawl out of the woods into the open, but the pain was unbearable. He lifted himself by the bridge railing to a standing position, thinking he could hop on one leg. But the pain was still unbearable. He looked for a branch to use as a crutch, but the one he found broke and he collapsed to the ground.

He was scared. He screamed for help, but there was no one to hear him.

He was hurt bad. He didn’t know if he had internal injuries. He was drifting in and out of consciousness from the pain. There was no telling how long he might lay there. He might pass out. He could get hypothermia in the cold and rain. He might even die there, he thought. So he painfully inched his way into an open spot where he hoped he could be seen if anyone came by and cried for help.

Meanwhile, Craig was planning to take his sons to a baseball game they were scheduled to play in Warsaw, but the game was canceled because of the rain.

Instead of staying home, though, he decided to take a ride with his sons, see the old neighborhood. He drove to Franke Park. He hadn’t been there in two or three years. He parked by the pond where the ducks and geese beg for food. Despite the rain, he decided to take a walk in the woods.

At some point, one of his sons said he thought he heard someone call for help. They stopped. Craig heard yelling, but he couldn’t understand any words.

So they walked a little more, and there was another cry, clearly someone calling for help. The three walked toward the noise.

Still conscious, Phil had just made it out of the woods. He looked up and saw someone coming. It looked like his brother. He said he thought he must be hallucinating. His brother, and his two nephews? It wasn’t a hallucination. His brother Craig had come to his rescue.

Phil is home now, screws holding his bones together. It will take months to recover, but he says he’ll run again.

Naoma Amburgey, though, calls it all a miracle. "God led him there," she says of Craig’s inexplicable trip to the park in the rain. And as for Craig, "He told me 30 years ago he was going to be there when he was needed."

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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