COEUR d'ALENE - When the cab driver and newspaper editor found Damon Rowe's unconscious body around 3 a.m. Thursday, it was nearly frozen and bleeding in the snow.
Emergency responders would tell Eugene Adkison, the Scott's Taxi driver who spotted Rowe on Lakeside Avenue near Ninth Street, that Rowe couldn't have survived much longer had it not been for the cab driver's action.
"I about (soiled) myself," Adkison said Thursday, on when he first touched Rowe's slumped body, on which the clothes were soaking wet except the parts that were beginning to crystallize. "I thought he was dead."
Rowe, 27, is recovering.
He doesn't remember what transpired. He received 12 staples in the back of his head at Kootenai Health Thursday, but moments before the fall or attack or accident are a black hole.
"They asked me what happened," Rowe said of hospital staff. "I said, 'You tell me why I am here.'"
Rowe remembers meeting some friends for beers at the Rendezvous bar on Coeur d'Alene Avenue to celebrate a birthday. He remembers walking home around midnight.
"The next I know I'm in the hospital," he said.
Temperatures have dipped into the 20s at night during the week, and Rowe could have been outside for three hours since Adkison found him at 3 a.m.
At first, Adkison drove past Rowe, motionless on the south side of the snowy street, before it registered with the driver what he actually saw.
"Is that a body?" he asked, stopping the car.
His passenger was Devin Heilman, a North Idaho College journalism major and managing editor of the school's newspaper, The Sentinel, who hailed the cab for a ride home after staying late at a friend's house to celebrate the semester break.
"My heart just stopped," she said.
The two pulled the body into the cab, its heater on full blast, and Heilman gave Rowe her coat, and wrapped an arm around him for body heat.
"We're not medical people, I don't know, it was just my first instinct," Heilman said.
Eventually Rowe became responsive, but nothing he said was coherent, they said.
Neither Heilman nor Adkison knew about the head wound until police arrived, and officers shined a flashlight on the injured man. The back of the cab was smeared with blood too, the driver and passenger noticed.
An ambulance then took Rowe to the hospital.
Police said the matter won't be investigated since there wasn't any indication of anything other than a fall. The department described Rowe as "highly intoxicated," but Rowe said he felt fine leaving the bar and starting the walk home. He suspects someone struck him from behind, but said he hadn't had a confrontation that night, and didn't have any suspects of his own.
He said he appreciated Adkison's help in getting him to safety.
"That's above and beyond what a lot of people would do," said Rowe's mother, Susie, of Adkison. "Otherwise, he would probably have died as cold as it was and with that type of head injury."
Adkison, who usually drives the 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift and was driving from Boyd to Mullan avenues on his last run Thursday, said he didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
"I'm glad I came along," he said. "But it's just one of those things where anyone would have stopped."