The image that gripped the nation is of two mangled cars at the bottom of a ravine 200 feet down. Inside the silver car, a man was dead. The man behind the wheel of the blue car was still alive. But the truly strange thing is that the two drivers didn't collide into each other. In fact, the accidents took place two weeks apart.
So what happened, and how did David Lavau survive a harrowing seven days down in the ravine?
The story begins where Lavau's life almost ended, in the rugged Angeles National Forest about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. He was driving along a narrow two-lane highway. It was dark and he swerved to avoid a truck coming toward him, and he drove right over a cliff.
“My car went over, so I was upside down.Then I was flying and I thought, ‘When is this going to stop?’” Lavau told INSIDE EDITION’s Jim Moret.
Lavau landed right next to the dead man's car. He suffered several broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder, and spent day-after-day in the ravine. All the time, his family was desperately searching for him, retracing what they thought was his route.
His daughter, Lisa, cried when she realized a photo of her dad was taken just days before he vanished. “I thought maybe that was the last picture that we took together,” said Lisa.
Lavau knew it was up to him to figure out how to survive. Incredibly, he ate bees and even a spider and drank the murky water at the edge of a concrete dam.
“I’d go right where the tadpoles were, because I figured they were drinking in oxygen and whatever. So I scared them, then I took the water from there. I thought, ‘I'm going to catch me a tadpole and maybe eat them,'” said Lavau.
But a week passed with no rescue. Lavau feared his car would become his tomb. He etched a final message to his family on the trunk that read, "Dead man not my fault. Love you kids. Dad."
“You wanted people to know that you two had not been in an accident?” Moret asked.
“It wasn't my fault,” said Lavau.
As Lavau was writing that goodbye message to his family, they just happened to be above the ravine. Lavau yelled one last time for help, and, amazingly, they heard that final scream. It was the moment they had been waiting for. A picture was taken that showed the moment Lavau's son reached him.
Lavau's grandson called 911 and told the operator, "My grandpa's been missing as of Friday last week. He's at the bottom of a cliff. One of the car's passengers is actually dead, and he's the only one alive out of the two car accidents."
911 Operator: So the car is at the bottom of the cliff?
Lavau's grandson: "Two of them. One of them has a dead passenger."
Using ropes, firefighters pulled 68-year-old Lavau to safety. They airlifted him to a hospital where doctors tended to his broken bones. His family couldn't contain their joy.
His daughter, Chardonnay, remembers her reaction to the news. “Dad's alive,” said Chardonnay.
“What gave you the strength to keep going?” Moret asked Lavau.
“Because I knew I was going to be found,” said Lavau.
“You really did? You knew?” asked Moret.
“Oh yeah,” said Lavau.
Lavau never gave up hope he would make it out of the ravine alive. He's grateful his family never gave up either.
“I’m very thankful. Yes, I'm very thankful,” said Lavau.