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Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - Page updated at 07:16 A.M.

Dehydration likely helped teen survive in car

By Michael Burnham and Ashley Bach
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

AP
Laura Hatch's car rests at the bottom of a Redmond embankment, where the 17-year-old was found alive Sunday. She had been missing since Oct. 2.
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Rescuer's "vision" attracts attention
Dehydration probably saved Laura Hatch's life.

The 17-year-old Redmond High School junior sat in a crumpled car for up to eight days, while a blood clot formed near her brain and her body ran dry. But the lack of water deprived the clot of the moisture it would have needed to expand, allowing her to survive, her doctor said.

Mild weather, the shelter created by the car and Hatch's youth also gave her crucial advantages, said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, the chief of neurosurgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she was taken for treatment after being found off Northeast Union Hill Road on Sunday.

"She's in pretty miraculous shape considering what she's been through," Ellenbogen said. "She dehydrated herself even to a point beyond what we could do with medicines."

Laura Hatch was found alive Sunday in her car.
Her car sailed 150 feet down an embankment on Union Hill Road outside Redmond, and it appears she was stuck there for days before being found, Ellenbogen said. Yet her only other major injuries were broken bones in her face, and she has been alert enough to joke about missing curfew and being grounded by her parents.

Hatch was still in serious condition at Harborview yesterday, and her injuries remained life-threatening, Ellenbogen said. Doctors hadn't decided whether she will need surgery for the blood clot or broken bones.

"She shouldn't be alive," said her sister, Amy Hatch. "She's been to hell and back."

Laura Hatch was found by a family friend who said a God-given vision led her to the girl's car, which was obscured by vegetation and could not be seen from the road. Hatch was discovered unconscious in the back seat, her eyes swollen shut by her injuries.

She had been missing since the evening of Oct. 2, when she was last seen leaving a party east of Redmond, police said. Over the next week, her family and friends at Creekside Covenant Church organized hundreds of volunteers to search local streets and spread the word.

STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Up since Sunday, Sha Nohr does a phone interview yesterday about the vision that she said led her to Laura Hatch, the 17-year-old girl who had been missing for eight days. Nohr and her daughter located Hatch on Sunday.
Yesterday, neon-yellow signs could still be seen on telephone poles in downtown Redmond, reading, "Laura, Come Home, We (Love) You!"

"We as her family do feel that (God) is what led her to be found," Amy Hatch said. "We have to believe because it defied logic to everyone — especially the doctors — that she was able to survive without water for that length of time."

King County sheriff's detectives investigated Hatch's disappearance last week, but based on undisclosed evidence, they thought she was a runaway, said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart. They searched along Northeast Novelty Hill Road early last week, because that's near the site of the party she attended, but no other sites.

They also sent Hatch's description and license-plate number to police agencies across the state. Detectives didn't think any criminal acts were involved in the teen's disappearance, and her status as a possible runaway did nothing to limit possible searches, Urquhart said.

MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, the chief of neurosurgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, talks yesterday about Laura Hatch's head injuries.
"Had we any indication that she was at a specific location, we would have looked for her there. ... We did everything we could," Urquhart said.

Unanswered questions remain about Hatch's disappearance. Police can't confirm how long she was stranded, and evidence at the scene does not help, Urquhart said.

Hatch remembers nothing about how the car crashed or how she spent her time stranded in the car, Dr. Ellenbogen said.

She told fire rescuers she climbed in and out of the car at least once, and she had mud on her clothing, said Redmond fire Capt. Rob Torrey. She also believed she was stranded for only one night, Ellenbogen said, an apparent result of her head injuries.

It did not appear that Hatch had worn a seat belt during the crash, and she probably was thrown into the back of the car, Torrey said.

At Redmond High School yesterday, officials announced Hatch's rescue on the intercom, just as they had announced her disappearance last week, students said.

"I'm really glad that she's OK," said Eunice Yoon, a junior who knew Hatch.

"She's not the kind of person who would run away," she added.

Randy Phillips, Hatch's pastor, said her rescue was the result of prayer, from the show of strength by her family, the support of the congregation and her discovery by the family friend, Sha Nohr.

"It's obvious that prayer affected the quality of relationships here — and it also affected the outcome," Phillips said.

Union Hill Road, where the crash occurred, is two lanes as it climbs steeply from downtown Redmond and is remarkable for its steep turns and general lack of side rails.

Ellenbogen said he was amazed at Hatch's condition after such dire circumstances.

"There's certainly things that not even physicians can explain," he said. "I'll just leave it at that."

Michael Burnham: 206-464-2243 or mburnham@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporter Natalie Singer contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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