Saving Their Dad

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

In the movie 127 Hours, James Franco survives in the wild by cutting off his own arm.

Hollywood loves stories like that -- pulled from the headlines. And Hollywood, I suspect, is going to like the story of David La Vau.

He's the 67-year-old father who's been in the news the last few days.

He's a retired guy of regular habits, so his six children grew concerned when they didn't hear from dad.

They became their own detectives.

They checked his bank, his gym and his cellphone activity. They determined he was truly missing and probably had been driving on Lake Hughes Road, above Castaic Lake.

The LA County sheriffs were not much help – you know, the agency that didn't look seriously for Mitrice Richardson until long after she was dead in Malibu Canyon.

So La Vau's kids drove the road to look for him. They'd stop at curves and check over the edge. Call his name.

It must have been emotionally agonizing duty, filled with dread and not much faith in success.

Then one of the sons heard him answer.

Dad and his smashed car were down in a ravine, close enough that he could hear cars driving by. He had broken bones, and the ravine was too steep for him to climb out.

His cellphone was missing.

He stayed alive for six days by drinking creek water and eating leaves -- and a bumblebee that tried to sting him.

He dreamed, as many Angelenos do, of In-n-Out burgers and lobster tacos. But by day six, he'd begun to give up hope.

Now…that's already a pretty gripping story, with emotional twists and the happy ending that producers like.

There was another twist to come.

When La Vau struggled out of his wreck the first morning, he found another car beside his. Almost touching.

In that car there was a body. The coroner's still checking to see if the man died from going over the cliff, or of something else.

Authorities and family members think the decomposed remains are those of an 88-year-old West LA man who was missing for two weeks. It's his car. His ID was found inside.

He had left home to drive to Hawthorne, then catch a bus to a casino in San Diego. How he ended up 50 miles the other way, off a mountain road, is a mystery.

Learning what became of him actually helps with the tragedy a little, his daughter told the media. There's some closure. Her dad isn't just missing.

That both cars went over the same cliff, within about a week of each other, is just one of those LA things.

It's the kind of coincidence, though, that makes you wonder. There are a lot of canyons and ravines around L.A. Unprotected curves.

How many victims are out there, just off the road, out of sight?

The La Vau family was lucky – and I guess the family of the other man is too.

Whether or not Hollywood comes calling, there's a follow-up story that cries out for media attention.

In a few months, an enterprising reporter should drive out to Lake Hughes Road – and on a certain curve, look to see if there's a shiny new guard rail installed. There better be.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.