ESPANOLA, Fla. - Rescuers crawled on their hands and knees, used machetes to cut through brush and called in a helicopter to hoist a Florida man from a dense swamp where he had been trapped for days.
Guss Baker of Hastings told his rescuers early Monday that he had been drinking swamp water to survive, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Lee Lawshe told The St. Augustine Record.
Baker was found in a swamp inside Turkey Island Hunt Club near Espanola in Flagler County. "That's one of the worst swamps I've ever been in," Lawshe said.
Sheriff's deputies and wildlife commission officers faced swamps "thick with impenetrable vines, bushes and trees, and it was pitch black despite the full moon," according to a statement from the commission.
In the darkness, officers yelled Baker's name until they finally heard a faint response from the 55-year-old man. A Volusia County Sheriff's Office helicopter outfitted with infrared thermal equipment pinpointed Baker's location and directed rescuers to him.
A shivering Baker was found perched on a stump in water that rose knee-high, wildlife commission officials said. Rescuers used their jackets and bullet-proof vests to keep Baker warm until a Seminole County Sheriff's Office helicopter arrived to hoist him from the swamp.
"I'm sure it has been a harrowing few days for Mr. Baker," Lawshe said in a statement from the wildlife commission. "I am relieved we found him alive. I only wish we could have found him sooner."
The wildlife commission said Tuesday that Baker was recovering at a hospital.
Baker was reported missing on Thursday.
He had left home June 18 to meet up with a migrant work van that was leaving from Bunnell for North Carolina, but he was out of medication, his girlfriend, Bridget Waters, told the newspaper.
Waters said she called the migrant workers' supervisor and asked him to keep Baker in Bunnell until she could pick him up. By the time she arrived, Baker was missing.
She told a St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy that Baker became delusional when he stopped taking his medications. The sheriff's office report did not detail what medications Baker needed.
On Thursday, the Flagler sheriff's office received reports about Baker being spotted near Espanola. Baker had startled some people who had been riding in the area, Lawshe said.
Searches of the swamp over the weekend had failed to find any trace of the man until fresh human tracks were reported Sunday night in the Turkey Island Hunt Club. Lawshe and another wildlife conservation officer followed the tracks and started calling Baker's name when the tracks ended.
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